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Reaction to Miss. Supreme Court Charter School Decision

Reaction to Miss. Supreme Court Charter School Decision
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SPLC Attorney Christine Bischoff Before Justices in June
Desare Frazier

Mississippi advocates on both sides of the charter school funding issue are reacting to a recent state Supreme Court decision that leaves charter school funding in place. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Cassandra Welchlin of Jackson is disappointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court's decision that tax money can be used to fund charter schools. She's one of seven plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They argued state law earmarks those funds for schools under the control of local districts, not charter schools. They're under the authority of a state authorizing board. Welchlin contends it's unconstitutional--fully funding the state's public education formula would better serve students.

"Why not just invest in our public schools and make sure that all of our children are being served so they can grow up to be productive citizens and we have an educated workforce," said Welchlin.

Grant Callen with the non-profit Empower Mississippi, supports charter schools. He says parents should have options for their children's education and tax dollars should follow the students.

"Those dollars must get to the students who need them and sometimes that happens in traditional public schools and sometimes it doesn't and we see that where there are places in the state where kids for the most part are not getting a great education," said Callen.

A lower court ruled last year using tax money to fund charter schools is constitutional. This state supreme court ruling upholds that decision. Callen says the court's decision has removed a lingering cloud over the issue and gives parents hope. There are five charter schools in Jackson and one in Clarksdale. Callen says two more are approved to open in Jackson and there's a recommendation to open one in Greenwood. That recommendation will be considered at a meeting today.