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Statement On Frivolous Charter School Lawsuit

Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi’s charter school law. Empower Mississippi President Grant Callen released the following statement:

It is unconscionable that an organization that purports to represent low income families would attack an institution that has opened new doors of opportunity for low income families in Jackson to finally have access to a quality educational setting. For decades, families in Jackson sought new education options for their children, and finally in 2015, with the opening of Reimagine Prep Charter School and Midtown Public Charter School, parents had a choice about where their children could attend school. While performance data is not yet available for these newly opened schools, we do know that over two hundred students voted with their feet to leave Jackson public schools and enroll in one of these new charter schools. Both schools are at maximum enrollment capacity and have a waiting list of students who wish they could attend.

If successful, this lawsuit by SPLC would snatch away the opportunity to attend a charter school and send these students back to the Jackson public schools from which they fled. A recently released audit conducted by the Mississippi Department of Education of the “D”-rated Jackson Public School District exposed profound problems within the district’s leadership and operations. Some of the most egregious findings from the audit include:

• “The superintendent does not provide effective educational leadership…”
• “The school board has failed to effectively perform its duties in its role of oversight.”
• “Discipline policies are applied inconsistently.”
• “School facilities are [not] maintained according to standards required for clean, safe, and orderly schools.”

For parents who have chosen a new school for their children, we find it inconceivable that SPLC would seek to impose their judgement over that of parents, and force these students to return to a district with such significant problems. In the months ahead, we intend to stand alongside parents in defending Mississippi’s charter school law. We will always advocate for a parent's right to determine the best educational setting for their children. We find SPLC’s constitutional arguments unconvincing and trust the court will quickly reject this frivolous lawsuit.

Empower MS Release
7/12/16

Posted July 12, 2016 - 7:31 pm

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