Media Contact

May 8, 2024

Last week, the Supreme Court of Mississippi issued a disappointing ruling in favor of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, in PPS V. MDFA, a case that determined whether the legislature illegally attempted to funnel $10 million in public funding into private schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court by the Mississippi Attorney General in May of 2023 after a lower court handed down a victory for Parents for Public Schools, finding the legislature’s neglect of public schools unconstitutional.

The ruling did not address the constitutionality of state funds being distributed to private schools. It ultimately held that the plaintiff, Parents for Public Schools (PPS) had no taxpayer standing because the funds in question were federal funds that were not earmarked foreducation and for the use of all Mississippians who may have suffered as a result of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The case was brought by Parents for Public Schools (PPS) – which was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and Democracy Forward. 

In response to the ruling, Will Bardwell, Senior Counsel for Democracy Forward issued the following statement:

"This is a sad day for Mississippi schoolchildren. For more than 150 years, the Mississippi Constitution has forbidden sending public money to private schools. But today, a majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court's members ignored that protection and undermined publicschools. We are grateful that Justice Leslie King and Justice Jim Kitchens voted to protect public school children. We are deeply disappointed that the rest of the Court did not. The Legislature should be investing more in public schools, not less. And when lawmakers openly flaunt the Constitution, the courts should stand against them. For our part, though, we will continue to stand with Mississippi schoolchildren against extremist attempts to hurt our public schools."

Joshua Tom, Legal Director at the ACLU of Mississippi said the following:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling that Parents for Public Schools doesn’t have standing says nothing about the merits of the case. On the merits, the Mississippi Constitution is clear. The state cannot send money to private schools. The legislature did just that, and the Court’s ruling yesterday unfortunately lets that unconstitutional action stand.”

Rob McDuff, Director of Impact Litigation at the Mississippi Center for Justice issued the following response:

“In claiming that public school parents and children had no right to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court majority relied heavily on the fact that federal funds were not earmarked at the outset for education.  But what’s important is what actually happened to the money- the legislature chose to spend it on education and allocated it to private schools.  That’s a direct violation of Section 208, which says no money shall be appropriated to schools that are not public.   This is a pretty obvious constitutional problem and we are disappointed that the Supreme Court sidestepped it."

Becky Glover, Policy Analyst at Parents for Public Schools, Inc., issued the following response:

“PPS’ vision is one where families and communities are actively engaged in strengthening public schools for every child. Because we believe that public education is an American value, we oppose any effort that diverts public resources from public schools or divides the potential constituency for public schools. We are deeply saddened and disappointed that the majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court’s justices have allowed lawmakers to disrespect the Mississippi Constitution and the resulting adverse effects to 90% of our state’s families with school age children.”