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Lawsuit filed alleges two bills would send public money to fund private school, violating state constitution

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A lawsuit accuses Mississippi of violating its own constitution by directing $10 million in pandemic relief funds to private schools.

On Wednesday, Parents for Public Schools filed the lawsuit, asking a chancery court judge to block the Independent Schools Infrastructure Grant Program.

In April, Governor Tate reeves signed Senate Bills 2780 and 3064 into law.

One bill creates the program and the other one funds it.

“The legislature appropriated a total amount of $10 million, but not more than $100,000 per private school in Mississippi, so $100,000 per private school up to $10 million,” said Becky Glover, policy analyst for Parents for Public Schools. “The goal is to prevent them from sending public funds to private schools.”

The money would be used for infrastructure projects at those schools.

However, Glover believes those dollars aren’t being used the correct way. ”We believe that public funds should stay in public schools and our constitution literally, actually, says that as well,” said Glover.

She said that’s why PPS is now filing the lawsuit looking to put a halt to the legislation, which is expected to go into effect on July first.

“This is the most brazen attempt to give money to private schools that I have ever seen,” said Will Bardwell, senior counsel at Democracy Forward. “Once public money starts going out the door, the injury is going to occur, so we’re going go to be asking the chancery court to put the program on hold until we can establish that it’s unconstitutional.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Justice, and Democracy Forward are representing PPS in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is being filed against the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, State Treasurer David McRae, and Liz Welch in her role as the state’s fiscal officer.

WLBT has reached out to the defendants for a comment on this lawsuit, we are still waiting to hear back.

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