By Rachel Canter, Mississippi First Executive Director & PIE Network Board Member
Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of charter schools receiving state and local dollars. Mississippi First is thrilled for the 1,750-plus children receiving their public education from one of the six public charter schools in Mississippi. The ruling unequivocally affirms what we have said all along: public education dollars belong to public school children for their public education; charter schools in Mississippi are public schools; funding charter schools is funding public schools.
From the beginning, this lawsuit was a distraction from the real and deep challenges facing public education in Mississippi today. As we said three years ago, this lawsuit was never about the quality of either public charter schools or traditional public schools nor did it have the power to improve education for any children, including those remaining in traditional public schools. Had the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) prevailed, the lawsuit merely would have preserved a status quo that has been unacceptable for a long time.
These families will not let us forget the truth: education is freedom.
Parents at public charter schools have given us powerful testimonies about what the opportunity to attend these schools means to their children and their families. In the face of the never-ending game of political grandstanding, these families will not let us forget the truth: education is freedom. The parents who chose to send their children to a public charter school did so because their children were not well served in the traditional system, and they wanted better, not in time, but now.
For over ten years, Mississippi First has been passionately committed to improving public education for all children. Our agenda is driven by what works—pre-K, high standards, sensible testing policies, great teachers and leaders, high-quality curriculum, and yes, high-quality public charter schools. We have welcomed allies to work with us anywhere we can find common ground, even if we do not agree on everything. We extend the same invitation to SPLC. It’s time to put the focus back on children and families.