A lawsuit against Mississippi filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center threatens the future of that state's charter schools, but a defense attorney believes state funding for the schools is constitutional.
The SPLC contends the state's constitution – specifically, sections 206 and 208 – doesn't allow property taxes to be used for public charter schools. Mike Hurst, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, argues just the opposite is true: that the constitution clearly authorizes the funding of charter schools with tax dollars.
"The Mississippi Constitution authorizes these schools and it specifically authorizes local tax dollars to follow local school children to the public schools that they attend," he says. "I think that at the end of the day, justice will prevail [and] these kids will be allowed to continue to attend charter public schools."
Section 206 of the Mississippi Constitution created a state education trust fund and allows local districts to levy property taxes; and Section 208 requires state funds to go to what are termed "free schools."
Hurst, who is representing several charter school parents, told the Clarion-Ledger in early April that the SPLC destroyed its own case during arguments in the case:
"I think when the SPLC admitted that the other types of public schools [the Mississippi School of Math and Science, for example] we have around the state – and that the Mississippi Legislature has authorized to receive both state and local funding – are constitutional, I don't see how they can argue that public charter schools are unconstitutional. They are the same type of setup. It's a contradiction in their argument.”
The attorney doubts the case will make it to trial.
"I think the judge heard the legal arguments; I think there are no factual issues between the parties; and frankly, I think the judge will rule on the motion – and whichever party is not satisfied will appeal to the next level," he offers.
Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas has set May 10 for proposed findings and June 21 for any required rebuttals.