A group of Jackson, Mississippi parents, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently filed a challenge in Chancery Court, Hinds County, to the Mississippi Charter School Act. (Araujo v. Bryant) The plaintiffs claim that the state constitution forbids the legislature from appropriating public funds to any school that is not a “free school” and that the state Supreme Court has defined a “free school” as one that is under the supervisions of the state superintendent and the local county superintendent. (Charter schools in Mississippi are accountable to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, a body appointed by the governor and lieutenant governor.) Furthermore, according to the complaint, local school districts are constitutionally prohibited from using their local tax revenues to support schools that are not part of their school system.
Currently, two charter schools are operating in Jackson and a third is authorized to open during the next school year. Under the Charter School Act, the state and the local district must transmit to each charter school for each student it enrolls an amount equal to the per capita funding that is provided for public school students in that district. The parents claim that last year the Jackson public schools were required to send to the two charter schools $1.85 million that should have been used instead to improve the education being provided to their children and other public school students.