Yesterday, Judge Crystal Wise Martin heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the Mississippi Legislature’s appropriation of $10-million to private schools through an infrastructure grant program. A ruling in the lawsuit, brought by Parents for Public Schools, can be expected “sooner rather than later,” according to Judge Martin.
The Mississippi Constitution prohibits any appropriation of public funds to a school that charges tuition.
Section 208 of the State Constitution says: No religious or other sect or sects shall ever control any part of the school or other educational funds of this state; nor shall any funds be appropriated toward the support of any sectarian school, or to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.
At issue is an appropriation of $10-million in federal pandemic-related funds that was pushed through in the final minutes of the 2022 Legislative Session. The bill stipulated that the funds were to go to only private schools via infrastructure grants of up to $100,000 per school, which are not required to be repaid. Earlier in the session, the Legislature created an infrastructure loan program for public schools, funds that are required to be repaid. The state has for decades failed to fund public schools at the level state law says is required to provide an adequate education for our children, and many public schools have fallen into dreadful disrepair due to a lack of resources.
Please remind your lawmakers that the public’s funds are intended for the public good, not to serve individual, private interests. The authors of our State Constitution agreed: the public’s funds belong in the public’s schools.
In other important news, first- and second-year teachers and librarians have until September 15 to apply to have a portion of their college loans repaid by the state through the Winter-Reed Loan Repayment Program, designed as an incentive to attract new teachers into the profession.
Teachers and librarians under contract in a school district designated as a geographical critical shortage area can be eligible for repayment of up to $15,000 in undergraduate student loans over their first three years of teaching.
Teachers under contract in a school district not designated as a geographical critical shortage area can be eligible for up to $7,500 over three years.
To be eligible for an initial application, a teacher must:
- Be a first-year teacher
- Hold a valid standard five-year Mississippi educator’s license
- Be under contract as a teacher or librarian in a Mississippi public school district
Award recipients may apply for renewal in their second and third years of teaching. Second-year teachers are eligible for renewal beginning this year, and third-year teachers will be eligible beginning in 2023.
The deadline for initial application is September 15, 2022. All supporting documents must be submitted by October 15, 2022. A total of 150 first-year teachers will be chosen each year, with priority given to geographical critical shortage area teachers. See program regulations and application details.
Thank you to our classroom teachers who are making a difference for Mississippi children every day! Mississippi values you and the important work you are doing.