Voucher Lawsuit News, Education Bills Become Law

In a 7-2 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court avoided ruling on the constitutionality of public funds going to private schools. A majority of justices opined that Parents for Public Schools (PPS) failed to show that public schools suffered any harm due to the Legislature’s 2022 appropriation of $10-million in federal pandemic funds for private school infrastructure and so did not have legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the appropriation. The Mississippi Constitution states that no funds shall be appropriated “to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.” In a dissenting opinion joined by Justice James Kitchens, Justice Leslie King asserted that PPS clearly has standing and that the unconstitutionality of the appropriation is “plain and obvious.”

These bills have been approved by Gov. Reeves and will become law:

  • HB 765 allows the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act to remain as law by extending the repeal date, expands the Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program, and allows retired teachers to work full time in critical shortage areas while receiving PERS benefits.
  • HB 1229 amends the ESA voucher statute to provide that private voucher schools may not receive voucher funds if they fail to meet the statutory requirements of the ESA voucher program. Additionally, it requires that voucher schools report data on participating students’ AP and college admissions tests and their graduation and college acceptance rates, and it mandates that students be accepted by a qualifying voucher school before being added to the program’s waiting list.
  • HB 4130 replaces the MAEP with the Mississippi Student Funding Formula, which includes an objective formula for the base student cost, an inflation factor to keep pace with rising education costs, an equity component to ensure that schools in communities with a low tax base receive adequate funding, and additional funding for circumstances that require additional resources, such as students who live in poverty, have special needs, or are learning to speak English.
  • HB 1823, the P-12 appropriation bill, fully funds the Mississippi Student Funding Formula, providing a $229-million increase in the public school appropriation, including funding to cover increases in health insurance and PERS and more money for pre-k.

You can find details about all the bills we followed in the 2024 Legislative Session on our bill tracker.

We are grateful for the work of the legislative leadership that yielded important gains for Mississippi children and teachers this session: Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, House Speaker Jason White, Senate Education Chair Dennis DeBar, House Education Chair Rob Roberson, Senate Education Vice Chair David Blount, and House Education Vice Chair Kent McCarty. We look forward to working with them to achieve more good things for children and teachers in the coming years!

The Mississippi Department of Education is hosting webinars this week to review revisions to the Mississippi Public School Accountability Standards and several State Board policies affecting approved courses for secondary schools, credit recovery, and distance learning. Find dates, times, and links to join the meetings here. No registration is required.

We are so very thankful for your steadfast support of Mississippi students and teachers and for our public school educators, whose incredible work is creating bright futures for our children. Together, we’ve got this!

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