A civil rights group is suing the state of Mississippi over racial discrimination in the K through 12 public school system. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, they're asking a federal judge to make the state keep a promise made to all citizens more than 100 years ago.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is basing their argument on "The Readmission Act", which allowed Mississippi to regain full statehood after the Civil War. The act pledged a uniform public school system for all children regardless of race. The SPLC claims the state has amended constitutional protections for education over time to suppress the advancement of blacks. Attorney Jody Owens says this suppression has created considerable differences in the quality of public education between black and white school districts.
"The inferrior education they provide then and now helps explain the persuasive achievement gaps between black and white students. Today, Mississippi's education clause is one of the weakest in the nation."
Dorothy Haymer is one of four parents filing suit. Her 6 year old daughter goes to the predominantly black Webster Elementary in Yazoo City.
"The classrooms are overcrowded. In my opinion, the teachers are not qualified because some of the teachers are very young. The children are not getting enough attention. Some children need individual attention and they're not getting it."
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says the group is forcing the state to spend millions of tax dollars on litigation that could be used in the classroom. Governor Phil Bryant calls the lawsuit a fundraising attempt by the SPLC, and that "we will continue to shape Mississippi's system of public education into the best and most innovative in America."