JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Hinds County Chancery Court ruled Mississippi lawmakers illegally tried to spend taxpayer dollars on private schools, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi.
The ruling by Hinds County Chancery Judge Crystal Wise Martin is a victory for Parents for Public Schools. The nonprofit group sued to block the program, arguing that the funding gives private schools a competitive advantage over public schools.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed two bills in April. One created a grant program to help private schools pay for water, broadband and other infrastructure projects. The other allocated the $10 million of federal money for the program, starting July 1.
In response, the ACLU of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Democracy Forward filed a lawsuit June 15 on behalf of Parents for Public Schools.
The lawsuit asked a judge to block the program, which allows grants of up to $100,000 to any in-state school that is a member of the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools and that is accredited by a state, regional or national organization. The parameters of the program exclude public schools from applying for the infrastructure grants.
The lawsuit cited Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution, which prohibits the use of public money for any school that is not “a free school.”
Attorneys for the state said that the federal funds “were never earmarked for public schools in the first place,” so public schools “stand to lose exactly nothing” as a result of the grant program.
The ACLU of Mississippi tweeted that the judge ruled the grants program violates section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution.
“We are elated with today’s ruling, which affirms our argument that the Mississippi Constitution explicitly forbids appropriating public funds to private schools,” the ACLU of Mississippi stated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.