The lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four black public school students asks a federal judge to force the state’s leaders to comply with the 1870 law, which says Mississippi must never deprive any citizen of the “school rights and privileges” described in its 1868 constitution.
The SPLC argues that Mississippi has repeatedly watered down education protections in its first post-Civil War constitution ever since, as part of what it calls a white supremacist effort to prevent the education of blacks.
“From 1890 until the present day, Mississippi repeatedly has amended its education clause and has used those amendments to systematically and deliberately deprive African Americans of the education rights guaranteed to all Mississippi schoolchildren by the 1868 Constitution,” the suit states.
The suit names as defendants Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, all Republican elected officials. It also names state school Superintendent Carey Wright and the nine appointed members of the state Board of Education….
…”This is one of the weakest education clauses in America because its mandate creates virtually no obligations that the Legislature does not choose for itself,” the suit states.
That’s close to the view of proponents of Initiative 42, a failed attempt in 2015 to amend the constitution yet again to require “an adequate and efficient system of public schools,” and allow people to sue over funding shortfalls.