A group of parents in Jackson is challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi's Charter School Act. The lawsuit claims its illegal to use taxpayer money to fund charter schools without local and state oversight.
Charter schools in Mississippi receive a bulk of their money from both Ad Valorem local taxes and the state. But a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center Monday is calling into question whether the state constitution actually allows the practice.
"Jackson Public Schools still has to keep the lights, the buildings, still has to maintain the structures just as they would if they had the same students," says Jody Owens a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center -- the group that filed the suit on behalf of six families whose children attend Jackson Public Schools."The other issue worth looking at here, they still have more stringent regulations or requirements. Charter schools have lax standards when it comes to the amount of teachers who have to be certified. JPS has higher standards, and you're taking the money away from them."
The suit claims local funding may only be used by a local district for a school under its purview. It also argues the constitution prevents the Legislature from appropriating money to any school not regulated by the either the state Board of Education or the Department of Education. Charters are not governed by local districts and are under the auspices of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board.
Rachel Canter is with Mississippi First -- a non-partisan education policy group that's been supportive of charter school implementation in the state.
"They serve public school children," says Rachel Canter with Mississippi First -- a non-partisan education policy group that's been supportive of charter school implementation in the state. "They are open to all children. They cannot discriminate against children. They must meet the same academic standards. They are judged by the same accountability ratings. They are public schools."
In a statement, Governor Phil Bryant called the suit frivolous saying "Mississippi's charter school law has proven effective at lifting poor and underserved children out of failing districts."