Hearing update: The illegal funneling of $10 million in public funds to private schools

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, October 13, 2022

JACKSON, Miss – Today, the Hinds County Chancery Court ruled that the Mississippi Legislature illegally attempted to funnel $10 million in public funds into private schools. The judge found that the grants program violates Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution, which expressly forbids appropriating “any funds…to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.” The State Constitution requires that taxpayer money be spent only on public “free schools.”

The case was brought by Parents for Public Schools (PPS) – which was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and Democracy Forward.

“Parents for Public Schools advocates on behalf of public schools because each child, each family, each community, and our collective democracy depends on education. We chose to enter this arena in Mississippi knowing that victory would not mean monetary gain for us or even for Mississippi’s public schools. We entered this argument because one of our core values is to educate all children well and equitably. In this case, we’re standing up for almost half a million children, their families, and their communities. In doing that, we stand up for a stronger, better Mississippi and against perpetuating inequity. We’re grateful to PPS parents and families who spoke up, for our legal representatives, and for the Court’s wise decision to honor the plain and clear language of our constitution,” said Becky Glover, Policy Analyst at Parents for Public Schools, Inc.

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Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice said, “Today’s ruling is a resounding victory for the hundreds of thousands of public school students in Mississippi. At a time when public schools are already strapped for resources, the legislature’s attempt to funnel $10 million to private schools was egregious. We thank the court for its ruling but also recognize that much more must be done to foster high-quality public education for all Mississippi school children.”

“We are elated with the Court’s ruling, which affirms our argument that the Mississippi Constitution explicitly forbids appropriating public funds to private schools. Public funds must have a system of accountability. Senate Bill 2780 and Senate Bill 3064 funneled taxpayer dollars to private schools, which have no responsibility to taxpayers. This outcome returns $10 million to Mississippi taxpayers,” Joshua Tom, legal director at ACLU of Mississippi.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the Mississippi Constitution and every person who cares about public education in the state,” said Will Bardwell, Senior Counsel at Democracy Forward.  “When the state legislature violated the Constitution by directing public money to private schools, it did more than merely continue Mississippi’s shameful history of undermining its children’s public schools. It broke the law, period. Today’s ruling makes clear: no one, not even the Mississippi legislature, is above the law.”