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Mississippi Supreme Court: Lawsuit against public dollars going to private schools ‘lacks standing’ 

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled in a 7-2 vote that an advocacy group has no legal ground to sue the state over legislation that allows public funds to go to private schools.

In June 2022, Parents for Public Schools, Inc. (PPS), represented by attorneys from the ACLU, filed a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 2780 and Senate Bill 3064, accusing the legislation of violating Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution by appropriating $10 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds 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.”

While the justices did not expound on the constitutionality of state appropriations going to private schools, they determined that PPS was unable to provide evidence of public education centers being negatively impacted by the legislation.

“Because Parents for Public Schools has failed to demonstrate an adverse impact sufficient to grant standing, this Court finds that PPS lacks standing to bring this lawsuit,” the justices in the majority opinion wrote.

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 toward the program’s funding.

Despite a Hinds County chancellor ruling against the funding going to private schools back in October 2022, the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, called on the Mississippi Supreme Court to take the case, which ultimately led to Thursday’s ruling.

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