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Judge upholds Mississippi's charter school law

MGN Online

A judge upheld Mississippi's charter school law Tuesday, rejecting a constitutional challenge that sought to cut off state and local money to the schools.

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 8:33 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A judge upheld Mississippi's charter school law Tuesday, rejecting a constitutional challenge that sought to cut off state and local money to the schools.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas ruled that diversions of local property taxes to charter schools are acceptable, and that the schools don't need to be overseen by a local or state superintendent.

"This court cannot find that plaintiffs herein have proven unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt," Thomas wrote.

A group of plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Will Bardwell, plans to appeal the decision. Bardwell said he filed a notice of appeal Tuesday afternoon.

"Obviously we disagree, but this case was always going to be decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court, at the end of the day, and we are happy to have a chance to present our argument to them," Bardwell said.

Mississippi has three charter schools with almost 1,000 students. Two more schools, one in Jackson and one in Clarksdale, are scheduled to open next fall. Supporters say the alternate form of public schools, run by private nonprofits, provide innovative alternatives to struggling public schools.

"This was a frivolous attempt by the Democrats and their allies to usurp the lawmaking authority of the Legislature and prohibit parents from having options when it comes to their child's education," Gov. Phil Bryant wrote in a tweet.

Opponents, though, say charter schools drain needed money from school districts. The three Jackson schools have received more than $1.5 million in local money so far. The lawsuit didn't seek to outlaw charter schools directly, but asked Thomas to rule that both local and state funding streams were illegal.

An earlier decision by the state Supreme Court struck down a transfer of property-tax money from Pascagoula-Gautier to other school districts. The plaintiffs argued that the decision should extend to prohibiting the transfer of local property tax money to charter schools. Thomas rejected that argument, saying the earlier case was different because the students of the district losing the money saw no benefit.

"In the current action, the Legislature provided for local taxes to follow the local students," Thomas wrote. "If a taxpayer parent of a particular school district chooses to send their child to a public charter school, the local tax follows that child."

At the hearing, the state argued that local districts have long sent local tax money to other districts through student transfers.

Thomas also said that schools don't need to be supervised by state and local superintendents to qualify as a "free school" under the Mississippi Constitution. Instead, he adopted the state's argument that since charter schools are legally forbidden from charging money, they meet the definition.

"A free school is a school which does not charge tuition," Thomas wrote.

Bardwell cited that as a particular point of disagreement.

"The Mississippi Supreme Court has held for more than 100 years that the only schools entitled to be treated as free schools are those under a local superintendent and the state superintendent, and by design, charter schools are exempt from both," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295675

Reported Deaths: 6743
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19690230
Hinds18812389
Harrison16722280
Rankin12725265
Jackson12603228
Lee9691160
Madison9466203
Jones7978147
Forrest7217138
Lauderdale6836226
Lowndes6031140
Lamar588480
Lafayette5736113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4612123
Oktibbeha441493
Panola430894
Pearl River4174130
Warren4130115
Pontotoc409771
Marshall403392
Monroe3990126
Union395674
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3544103
Hancock347975
Leflore3376118
Sunflower318986
Tate302974
Pike300796
Scott293970
Alcorn291862
Itawamba290075
Yazoo289963
Tippah278965
Coahoma278668
Copiah278158
Simpson275879
Prentiss269858
Wayne254241
Marion252778
Leake252671
Covington248980
Grenada247578
Adams234678
George231845
Newton229952
Winston221777
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201152
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170939
Clarke169371
Calhoun157928
Smith152832
Yalobusha144836
Greene127733
Walthall124240
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry121734
Lawrence120421
Carroll118425
Amite111734
Webster110631
Jefferson Davis101931
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93524
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77214
Franklin76119
Choctaw69617
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48917
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 494421

Reported Deaths: 9991
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson711451374
Mobile36184735
Madison32457458
Tuscaloosa24213412
Montgomery22636517
Shelby22020214
Baldwin19790284
Lee14980154
Morgan13693251
Calhoun13307287
Etowah13192320
Marshall11269209
Houston10102261
Elmore9408185
Limestone9376134
Cullman8903181
St. Clair8839224
Lauderdale8601212
DeKalb8465175
Talladega7552164
Walker6538258
Jackson6503103
Autauga630391
Blount6106127
Colbert5993119
Coffee5254102
Dale4648107
Russell405233
Franklin399478
Covington3970106
Chilton3883100
Escambia378172
Tallapoosa3596143
Clarke343753
Chambers3421111
Dallas3412141
Pike293372
Lawrence283684
Marion283495
Winston247368
Bibb245460
Geneva240270
Marengo236557
Pickens224555
Barbour212451
Hale210668
Fayette200957
Butler197566
Henry182641
Cherokee177139
Monroe166339
Randolph163840
Washington156635
Crenshaw145254
Clay145054
Macon142343
Cleburne137841
Lamar133133
Lowndes131251
Wilcox122525
Bullock117136
Conecuh106724
Perry105827
Sumter98632
Coosa89224
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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