Charter School Parents and Kids Seek to Join Lawsuit
Mississippi Justice Institute represents parents and kids in fight to preserve their free public charter schools; files motion to intervene as defendants in lawsuit filed by Southern Poverty Law Center

Today, on behalf of parents of students attending charter schools in Jackson, the Mississippi Justice Institute filed a motion to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit pushed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against funding for free public charter schools.

The parents, all residents of Jackson, have children both in Jackson Public Schools and in ReImagine Prep and Smilow Prep, free public charter schools.

“My husband and I are homeowners. We pay our taxes. Our taxes should support our children’s public education, whether they are in a traditional school or in a free, public charter school. We are here today for our kids and for a choice in their education,” said one parent, Gladys Overton at a press conference announcing the action on Wednesday. She continued, “This is about them and their future – nothing else. We simply want an opportunity for our voices to be heard. We will fight for the right to choose a public school for our children that meets their needs.”

Another parent, Tiffany Minor, also spoke at the press conference, “Like all parents, I want my child to have the kind of education that will allow her to pursue her dreams. Why would someone try to take that away from her? I should be able to choose where my children go to school. I’m here today for my daughter. The lawsuit that was filed threatens to close her new school and send her back to the district that failed her. My family needs this public option, and I intend to fight for it.”

Mike Hurst, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, said, “Today, brave men, women and children, are stepping forward and speaking out for their rights by filing this motion to intervene in the recent lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Free, public charter schools are changing the lives of these students in Jackson. These parents and kids are simply asking for a chance to have their voices heard in the courtroom on an issue that directly impacts their lives and the future of these children and we at the Mississippi Justice Institute intend to stand by them and fight for them.”

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is an independent, non-profit organization based in Jackson. It works to advance the ideals of free markets, limited government, and strong traditional families. Its work is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible contributions. It receives no funds from government agencies for its operations. To learn more about MCPP, visit www.mspolicy.org.

Motion to Intervene: Online Here
Statements as Prepared for Delivery

Gladys Overton

Hello. My name is Gladys Overton. I am a Jackson resident, a homeowner, a taxpayer and most importantly a mom, who wants the best for her kids and have a choice as to their education. Charter schools are free, public schools that serve all students, even students like my daughter. Though she thrived academically in her old school, bullies caused her to experience anxiety and self-esteem issues. School was not a happy place for her; she relied on medications to help her cope with school. I hated to see my daughter struggle, and I was finally pushed to a point where I knew that I could not sit back and watch my child get worse.

At the end of 4th grade, I wish I could have put her into a private school, but with TWO other children, we did not have the means to do so. I knew I needed to come to my child’s rescue. I needed to give her a fighting chance. I learned about a new type of school that was opening in my South Jackson community, a free public charter school. I learned my child and all 5th grade children in Jackson were eligible to attend a charter school for free. I learned Reimagine Prep had structures in place that could offer a safer and less stressful environment for my child. And it has been a LIFE-CHANGER for my daughter. Now she can go to school and just simply focus on learning without worrying about bullies or unclear expectations.

After only one month of being at Reimagine, we were able to COMPLETELY wean her off medications. Since being at Reimagine, she has grown to LOVE school. She has made so many great relationships with classmates and teachers and this past year, she was elected as secretary of her class. I never WITNESSED these leadership abilities in my child before.

Prior to attending Reimagine, my child attended ONE of the better schools in JPS, and I have two other children who attend JPS. While these schools may be great for some people, they were not the right place for my daughter. They did not meet her needs.

Today, I am here for my daughter. She loves her school. The Southern Poverty Law Center has made a direct threat to our school and my family by challenging how free, public charter schools are funded. If free public charter schools are unable to use local or state tax dollars to operate, they will close. I don’t want to think of what would happen to my daughter in that case.

Again, my husband and I are homeowners. We pay our taxes. Our taxes should support our children’s public education, whether they are in a traditional school or in a free, public charter school. We are here today for our kids and for a choice in their education. This is about them and their future – nothing else. We simply want an opportunity for our voices to be heard. With representation from the Mississippi Justice Institute, we will fight for the right to choose a public school for our children that meets their needs.

Tiffany Minor

Hello. My name is Tiffany Minor, and I’m here today because I want my daughters to have the opportunity to go to good public schools.

This year, I chose a free, public charter school for one of my daughters. Last week, I read that a lawsuit had been filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center that might force her charter school to close. She would then be forced to go back to a JPS school that did not meet her needs. I think all kids deserve better opportunities, not just the ones who can afford private schools, attend magnet programs, or move to better districts. Like all parents, I want my child to have the kind of education that will allow her to pursue her dreams. Why would someone try to take that away from her? I should be able to choose where my children go to school.

Last year, my 4th grade daughter came home from school with a flyer about a new charter school opening up in Jackson. She told me that she wanted to go there. She had no idea what the school was about. She just knew that she didn’t like her school. The flyer said Smilow Prep, a charter school, would open Fall 2016 and would serve Jackson 5th graders. Because my child often complained about the school she attended, she and I got online and looked into it. I never considered another school for my daughter because I live where I live, and I can’t change that. I often imagined her going to a fancy private school across town like the schools I see on TV, but my income cannot provide for that.

The principal at Smilow Prep told me about their dedication to helping kids who struggle, their behavioral system, and their focus on teaching my child life skills. She was so helpful in explaining everything about the school including homework assignments and school structure. Talking to her was the first time I considered that my child could get a different type of education, the kind of education where the school is designed to help her.

With the opening of Smilow Prep, I realized I had another option for at least one of my daughters. She and I have an opportunity to try something different. I no longer have to feel like she’s trapped in a failed system. She just started school last week, so I have yet to see the impact that the school will have on my child, but the opportunity, alone, to move my daughter to a place that WANTS to help her improve is empowering. From the very first conversation I had with the principal, there was a focus on giving kids EXTRA help so they can reach their highest potentials. My child needs this. I feel that the education she’ll get at Smilow Prep will give her the better future she deserves.

I’m here today for my daughter. The lawsuit that was filed threatens to close her new school and send her back to the district that failed her. My family needs this public option, and I intend to fight for it.

MJI Press Release
8/10/16