(Jim) Barksdale is a passionate supporter of Initiative 42. He says that the effort to write a funding guarantee into the state constitution is key to the state’s future, and he is appealing to voters to approve it in November.

“Think about the justice,” said Barksdale, sometimes counted as Mississippi’s richest resident. “Think about the common good. The common good is to get our children education to the highest level we can.”

Barksdale gives some praise to Gov. Phil Bryant and current lawmakers, including for charter schools and a teacher pay plan that’s supposed to give raises next year based on test scores. The venture capitalist financially backed Bryant’s election four years ago, and worked briefly as Bryant’s first director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

But he rejects lawmakers’ arguments that they’ve done enough because they’ve put more money than ever before into education this year.

He also disagrees with the argument by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and other Republicans that they couldn’t make up the current $200 million gap between current funding levels and the $2.5 billion demanded by the formula without widespread cuts to other agencies.

Barksdale denies the contention by legislative leaders that the entire gap would have to be filled in the first year, noting that petitions that voters signed called for K-12 education to get 25 percent of the growth in state revenue each year until the gap between current funding levels and the amount demanded by the formula is closed.

“They don’t have to fully fund it the first year,” Barksdale said.

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