Judge upholds Mississippi’s charter school law

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A judge is upholding Mississippi’s charter school law, rejecting a constitutional challenge to the statute.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas ruled Tuesday that diversions of local property taxes to charter schools are acceptable, and that the schools do not need to be overseen by a local or state superintendent.

A group of plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, could appeal the decision. Lawyers on both sides have long said the case is bound for the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Thomas says the state constitution doesn’t forbid local property taxes from following a student to a charter school, agreeing with the law’s defenders that such transfers already happen in some cases. Thomas also rejects the argument that charter schools have to be overseen by a state or district superintendent

The following statement is from Will Bardwell, senior staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“This decision is disappointing, but it does not end our fight for Mississippi’s children. We plan to appeal this case to the Mississippi Supreme Court because the future of our schools depends on it.

“By the time the Supreme Court hears this case, Jackson schoolchildren will have lost millions of public dollars to privately operated charter schools. We owe it to every public school student in Mississippi to continue this fight.”

Below is a statement from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves:

“I appreciate the Court for recognizing the Legislature’s responsibility to improve the education attainment level of all students,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “It’s time for the coalition of the status quo to stop fighting us in courts and join us in focusing on educating all Mississippi children.”

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