Miss. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Over Taxes to Chart

Miss. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Over Taxes to Charter Schools
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Attorney Christine Bischoff Addressing Justices
Desare Frazier

Some Jackson Public School parents are hoping the Mississippi Supreme Court will overturn the state's charter school law. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports the justices heard arguments on both sides of the issue Tuesday.

Attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center are representing seven parents with children in Jackson Public Schools. They're appealing a lower court ruling that it is acceptable for JPS to divert local property taxes to charter schools. SPLC Attorney Christine Bischoff says it violates Mississippi's constitution. During oral arguments, she referred to a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that state lawmakers couldn't force a school district to share tax revenue with another one.

"In Tucker the court said quote Section 206 clearly states that a school district may tax to fund its schools, leaving no room for an interpretation allowing the legislature to mandate that the funds be distributed elsewhere," said Bischoff.

Bischoff says the four charter schools currently operating in Jackson are not under the control of Jackson Public Schools She says by law they operate as their own district with approval of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizing Board. Lawyers for the state argue the money should follow the student. Attorney Krissey Nobile is with the state Attorney General's office

"It's the taxpayers money because they pay it and they pay it to support the taxed district's public schools and Section 206 does not treat the public school students of the tax district unequally and that's precisely why the money follows the student," said Nobile.

According to Jackson Public Schools, it has paid $8.7 Million to charter schools since their inception. The first two opened in 2015.