JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A lead attorney for Parents For Public Schools said they are prepared to challenge a possible appeal by the state. This comes after Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Crystal Wise Martin blocked a state law that put $10 million of federal pandemic relief money into infrastructure grants for private schools.
Martin’s ruled that state lawmakers violated the state’s constitution in funding program for private schools. They voted last year to grant $10 million of federal pandemic relief money to private schools, including those in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools.
Public schools were not allowed to apply for that particular funding. Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) signed the bill. The non-profit parents group filed suit against state officials. They were joined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Democracy Forward.
Plaintiffs argued the grants were illegal and gave an unfair advantage to non-public school systems.
“Our state constitution plainly and clearly says that the legislature cannot appropriate any amount of money to the support of private schools or to the support of schools that aren’t considered free at the time they receive the funding,” said Becky Glover, a policy analyst for Parents for Public Schools, Inc.
Will Bardwell, senior counsel at Democracy Forward, said, “The Legislature has underfunded our public schools funding formula for 23 of the past 25 years by virtually every metric. Mississippi’s public schools struggle to keep up with the rest of the nation’s public schoolchildren. We just can’t afford to divert our already limited resources from public schools to private schools.”
WJTV 12 News reached out to the Governor’s Office for a response to the judge’s ruling. As of Friday, Oct. 14, we are waiting to hear back.