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PPS files lawsuit on private school funding bills

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The Parents for Public Schools, Inc. (PPS) has filed a lawsuit in the Hinds County Chancery Court in an effort to prevent two passed bills from becoming law.

The lawsuit challenges Senate Bill 2780 and Senate Bill 3064, saying that the bills violate Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution by appropriating $10 million to private schools across the state.

According to the group, the bills violate the portion of the section that states that “any funds…to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.”

In SB 2780, the wording states that the Department of Finance and Administration will administer up to $100,000 in funds from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to eligible independent schools as grants.

The grants will be awarded under the Independent Schools Infrastructure Grant Program, with SB 3064 allocating an additional $10 million towards the program’s funding.

Both bills are expected to go into effect on July 1.

“PPS unequivocally opposes taxpayer dollars being used to support non-public schools,” said Becky Glover, a policy analyst at PPS. “Our taxes provide a way for us to build and maintain what we, as a society, agree we all need and want, but can’t afford on our own. So, in addition to the unconstitutionality of this matter is the fact that taxpayers are the primary source of revenue for public infrastructure, as well as public goods and services. Taxes are supposed to serve and support the common good. Private schools are not public.”

Representing the group is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Justice, and Democracy Forward.

“The issue here is that the Mississippi Constitution explicitly forbids lawmakers from appropriating public funds to any private school,” said Joshua Tom, legal director at ACLU of Mississippi. “Furthermore, public funds must have a system of accountability, and private schools that are receiving taxpayer dollars have no accountability to the taxpayer for the expenditure of these public funds.”

To read the entire lawsuit filed by PPS, click here.

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