Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging a $10-million appropriation to private schools for infrastructure improvements. State Attorney General Lynn Fitch had appealed a lower court’s ruling that the 2022 appropriation by the Mississippi Legislature was unconstitutional. Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution states that “no funds shall be appropriated toward the support of…any school that at the time of the appropriation is not conducted as a free school.”
Attorneys arguing on behalf of private schools asserted:
- that the appropriation was not unconstitutional because, rather than being appropriated directly to private schools, it was run through the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration with instructions to send it to private schools – a ridiculous suggestion that the Legislature could avoid complying with the Constitution by laundering appropriations through state agencies; and
- that the lawsuit should be tossed out, alleging that the members of the group bringing the suit, Parents for Public Schools (unrelated to The Parents’ Campaign), were not harmed by the appropriation. One needn’t drive far to witnesses the absurdity of this argument. Children of parents bringing the suit attend public schools on campuses with massive infrastructure deficiencies and severely dilapidated facilities that have fallen into disrepair because of insufficient funding. Legislators have claimed for decades that they cannot afford to fully fund our public schools, let alone provide funding for infrastructure.
If public money is to be appropriated to any school for any reason, it should go to public schools, which operate for the public good. Our State Constitution demands it. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in the case no later than the end of June 2024.
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has launched a campaign to support students, teachers, and schools as they work to ensure that every third-grader is a strong reader. If you have a child in kindergarten through grade 3, check out the important information on MDE’s Know Your Child’s Reading Score site.
The MDE has proposed some clarifying changes to Appendix F of the State Accountability Standards regarding state testing procedures, and those changes are out for public comment. You can review the proposed changes to Appendix F and provide your comments to the MDE no later than 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Comments may be emailed to Dr. Jackie Sampsell at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Dr. Jackie Sampsell, State Assessment Director, Mississippi Department of Education, P.O. Box 771, Jackson, MS 39205-0771.
We expect the House and Senate Education Committees to begin taking up bills soon, and we will be sure to keep you informed about which bills are advanced and how they will affect your children and your schools. We promise to be your eyes and ears at the Capitol and to let you know when legislators need your input. Together, we’ve got this!