Mississippi Supreme Court sides with charter school students

By Aaron Rice
September 5, 2019

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of public charter school funding, preserving the schools that have served as a lifeline to hundreds of Mississippi children in just a few short years. 

“This ruling is a major victory for parents who simply want what every parent wants: the ability to choose the best possible education for their children,” said Aaron Rice, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “We are happy for our clients and for every parent and student in Mississippi who will continue to have increased educational choices because of this ruling.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in 2016 which could have shut down charter schools. The Mississippi Justice Institute intervened and represented three parents whose children attend charter schools.

The Court ruled that Mississippi’s Charter School Act of 2013 is constitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center had argued that part of the Act’s funding mechanism was unconstitutional. That provision requires public schools to share the tax revenues collected for education with charter schools in their district, based on the number of students who attend those charter schools. The Court held that this funding mechanism was constitutional, because charter schools are public schools and are associated with the school district in which they are located.  

“The parents are pleased that the Supreme Court has confirmed the authority of the legislature to provide different options to meet the educational needs of all Mississippi children,” said Mike Wallace, a Shareholder with Wise Carter who provided pro-bono counsel for charter school parents. “Mississippians should now continue to work with the legislature to develop new and creative programs so that parents can choose those that best serve their children.”

“I’m very excited about this decision,” Tiffany Minor, the mother of a student at Smilow Prep said.” It gives my daughter and other children the opportunity to choose what type of education they would like at what school they choose to go to. So I’m very excited. This was the best decision ever. I love it.”

In just a couple years, Tiffany has seen the change this new option provided for her daughter, Jalonda. 

“When my daughter did a test during her first year at Smilow Prep as she was entering fifth grade, she was on a third grade reading level,” Tiffany said. “By the time she ended that school year and was getting ready to go to sixth grade she was on the actual six grade reading level. So she transformed three reading levels in one year from Smilow Prep. It’s helping her and she’s having fun while she’s making honor roll so I love it. It’s amazing to me.”

“Smilow Prep has helped me a lot since I’ve been in it and it actually makes me a better learner,” Jalonda said. “They give me extra help when I need it.”

Charter schools are public schools that are given freedom from some of the regulations placed on traditional public schools. They currently operate in over 40 states and the District of Columbia. If the Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit was successful at the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mississippi would be one of a small handful of states to not offer these innovate schools for children.

Ella Mae James has two children at Reimagine Prep, Laporcha and Jonathon.

“My children have been attending Reimagine Prep from when the school first opened,” Ella said. “And they have grown so much in their reading and math levels. They did it with the tutoring and the extra help they receive. And we just appreciate having this opportunity to give them that choice.”

The full ruling can be found here.


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