News & Politics

SPLC Loses Bid to Defund Majority Black Charter Schools

The Carroll Gartin Justice Building -- Supreme Court of Mississippi and Court of Appeals of the State of Mississippi -- in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo credit: Tony Webster, Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that there is no evidence to suggest that funding charter schools in Jackson, Miss., with property taxes is unconstitutional. This ruling protected charter schools which are majority black, giving minority students a chance to excel above the level of the failing public schools. Yet the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — a far-left smear factory which gained its fame by helping black Americans and bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan — filed a lawsuit seeking to defund the schools.

“Today’s ruling is a loss for Mississippi’s 470,000 public schoolchildren, and for the taxpayers who will continue to see millions of public dollars drained from traditional public schools,” SPLC senior supervising attorney Christine Bischoff said in a statement.

Yet the ruling is a clear victory for many black families. Republic Schools, which operates Smilow Collegiate, Smilow Prep, and ReImagine Prep charter schools, reports being comprised of 94 percent black children from the Jackson Public School District.

“I’m very excited about this decision,” Tiffany Minor, a black mother of a student at Smilow Prep, told Y’All Politics. “It gives my daughter and other children the opportunity to choose what type of education they would like at what school they choose to go to. So I’m very excited. This was the best decision ever. I love it.”

Minor described the great opportunity Smilow Prep provided for her daughter, Jalonda.

“When my daughter did a test during her first year at Smilow Prep as she was entering fifth grade, she was on a third grade reading level. By the time she ended that school year and was getting ready to go to sixth grade she was on the actual six grade [sic] reading level. So she transformed three reading levels in one year from Smilow Prep,” the proud mother said. “It’s helping her and she’s having fun while she’s making honor roll so I love it. It’s amazing to me.”

“This ruling is a major victory for parents who simply want what every parent wants: the ability to choose the best possible education for their children,” Aaron Rice, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, said in a statement. “We are happy for our clients and for every parent and student in Mississippi who will continue to have increased educational choices because of this ruling.”

RePublic Schools spokeswoman Megan Cole described the achievements of the local charter schools.

“Last year at Reimagine Prep, principal Christina McDonald led scholars and teachers to have the highest accountability score of any open enrollment middle school in the city. Additionally, 52 percent of our seventh-grade scholars scored proficient or advanced on the MAAP math exam, surpassing the state average,” Cole told Y’All Politics. “We are proud of our scholars’ growth as we recognize that many of our them come to us several years behind. Last year, 51 percent of fifth-grade scholars came to us performing in the bottom 25 percent in math and bottom 39 percent in reading, as measured by the NWEA MAP exams. The data suggest that the longer our scholars are with us, their more performance increases, which is not a trend in Jackson Public Schools.”

The SPLC sued in 2016 on behalf of parents who said the state’s charter school law is unconstitutional and harmful to the public schools. Last year, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas ruled that there was insufficient evidence that charter schools were funded in a way that violates state law. At the Mississippi Supreme Court, five justices agreed with Thomas. One concurred in part and two dissented.

In March, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, and other SPLC leaders stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.