BY: Geoff Pender
Why this lawsuit now? I’m not sure. But it reeks of the same old hardheaded politics that have stifled public education policy innovation for decades, not of strictly altruistic or constitutional motivations.
The litigation promises to drag on, and the state Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the constitutionality of charter school funding. A ruling years ago that said a law forcing Pascagoula to share tax dollars with other school districts was unconstitutional looks promising for the plaintiffs. But the high court has also in other cases tended to take a more general view of constitutional education provisions in favor of lawmakers.
This legislative session, lawmakers expanded the act to allow students in school districts rated C, D and F to cross district lines to attend a charter school anywhere in the state — with their tax money following along. This might have been a bridge too far, too soon. Maybe that decision should be revisited.
But a chief claim of the lawsuit is that a school can’t receive state or local tax dollars unless it is “regulated by the state superintendent of education and the local school district superintendent.”
What about the Mississippi School for Math and Science, the Mississippi School of the Arts and the state schools for the deaf and the blind? Those are all governed by the state Board of Education, with no local districts or superintendents controlling them. What about all the failing schools the state has had to take over? Would they be affected if the court upholds that argument?
I’ve said it before: Mississippi reserves its most bitter, most partisan, most no-holds-barred politics and fighting for public education policy. There’s almost never collaboration or compromise or even communication across political lines with education.
There’s usually just fighting and lawsuits.