/Charter schools’ use of tax dollars upheld, Mississippi Supreme Court throws out SPLC lawsuit

Charter schools’ use of tax dollars upheld, Mississippi Supreme Court throws out SPLC lawsuit

According to the Mississippi Supreme Court’s recent decision, there isn’t enough evidence to show that Mississippi charter schools are unconstitutionally funded. The court heard arguments in June between attorneys from the Mississippi Southern Poverty Law Center (MSLC) and the state Attorney General’s Office about charter school funding. The court upheld the lower court’s decision that plaintiffs had “failed to prove” that charter school funding is illegal. Christine Bischoff, senior supervising attorney at SPLC, stated that today’s ruling was a loss for Mississippi’s 470,000 public schoolchildren and for taxpayers who will see millions of dollars taken from traditional public schools. In 2016, the SPLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of parents who claimed that the state’s charter school law (especially the question of local tax dollars being sent to them) was unconstitutional. Dewayne Thomas, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge, ruled that there was not enough evidence that charter schools were funded in a manner that is contrary to state law. This led SPLC attorneys and others to appeal the decision to state Supreme Court. Five justices concurred, one concurred in part, and two dissented. Associate Justice Robert Chamberlin, representing the court, wrote that the concurring justices “… agreed with the chancery court. Chamberlin’s code refers to a section in Mississippi’s constitution that states that local funding must be used to maintain schools. Although charter schools can be classified by the state education department as either local education agencies or individual districts, funding is sent to them by their local school district based on enrollment. The SPLC attorney Bischoff said that the decision was wrong. The Court’s conclusion that charter school are not their own school districts is the basis of the Court’s decision. The Mississippi Charter Schools Act is clearer than that. A charter school is a local educational agency, which is another name of a school district. This decision is simply wrong.” Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinions, which Justice James Kitchens also joined, stated that “This Court shouldn’t be a rubber stamp to Legislative Policies it agrees with when they are unconstitutional.” Local funding for public school districts in Mississippi comes from ad valorem taxes receipts. A charter school is where a student enrolls. This charter school is a public school that offers free education. The money that would have been sent to the district goes to the student instead. SPLC’s part was validly acknowledged by the court. Charles and Evelyn Araujo claimed they were in danger due to charter schools taking ad valorem tax from their local school district. The opinion stated that the couple lives in Jackson and has children in Jackson Public Schools. They also pay ad valorem tax. The Plaintiffs are not just general taxpayers who challenge general governmental spending as being unconstitutional. “…the Plaintiffs feel a different, adverse impact than the general population due to the alleged nonconstitutional spending. There are currently six charter schools in Jackson and Clarksdale. Two more have been approved to open in future. The Monday meeting of the Charter School Authorizer Board is to approve or deny applicants for this year’s application cycle._x000D