Mississippi’s charter-school law does not violate the state’s Constitution, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas ruled last month. Plaintiffs in Araujo v. Bryant had argued 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 supervision 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.) Plaintiffs further alleged that local school districts are constitutionally prohibited from using their local tax revenues to support schools that are not part of their school system.
The judge rejected each of these arguments. He stated that charters must “‘be conducted as a free school’ and no evidence has been presented that they are not.'” The judge also ruled that charter-school funding provisions do not violate the Mississippi constitution because the local tax dollars follow students to different districts, when they transfer in some circumstances or attend special schools or programs.
The plaintiffs claim that the manner in which the local tax dollars that follow the child from the public-school district to the charter are calculated results in a situation in which charters receive more funds per pupil than the district in which the student lives. The Southern Poverty Law Center, counsel for the public school plaintiffs, has stated that they plan to appeal the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court.