Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Southern Poverty Law Center sues Mississippi over education funding. (Updated)

Quite a few readers have asked about the Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit that was filed last week against the state of Mississippi over the funding of education.  It is posted below for your perusal.  The SLPC also issued the following statement on its website that provides a concise summary of the lawsuit:

Mississippi has repeatedly violated a nearly 150-year-old, legally binding obligation to operate a “uniform system of free public schools” for all children, an obligation placed on the state as a condition of rejoining the Union after the Civil War, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mississippi enshrined this requirement in the education clause of its Constitution, which the state ratified in 1869. The following year, Congress passed a law, commonly called the “Readmission Act,” allowing Mississippi to regain full statehood. The Readmission Act requires that the education rights then granted in the state constitution never be diminished.

Over more than a century, however, state lawmakers have diluted the education clause multiple times. The violations began in 1890, at the start of the Jim Crow era, when delegates to the state’s Constitutional Convention crafted new governing documents with the explicit intention of disenfranchising African Americans by withholding education. Each subsequent change has further watered down the education clause. Today, because of this historical malfeasance, the state’s public schools are anything but “uniform.”

“Mississippi is failing its most vulnerable children – those living in the shadow of a Jim Crow system that deliberately undermined education rights in the name of white supremacy,” said Will Bardwell, senior staff attorney in the SPLC’s Jackson office. “The state’s education system is shamefully inequitable and anything but uniform.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division, on behalf of four African-American mothers whose children attend kindergarten and first grade in the Jackson Public School District and the Yazoo City Municipal School District. Both of these districts have been given an “F” rating by the Mississippi Department of Education.

“These children deserve the same strong start as any other students in their state and we are committed to seeing that they get it,” said Brad Elias from O’Melveny & Myers LLP, a national law firm that is handling the case pro bono.

Students at the schools attended by the plaintiffs’ children are overwhelmingly African-American. They lack textbooks, literature, basic supplies, experienced teachers, sports and other extracurricular activities, tutoring programs, and even toilet paper. Plaintiff Dorothy Haymer, whose 6-year-old daughter is in kindergarten at Webster Elementary, spent $100 this year for sanitary supplies for the school. At Raines Elementary, which is more than 99 percent African-American, the paint is peeling off the walls, water spots are visible on the ceilings, and lunches sometimes have curdled milk and rotten fruit. Plaintiff Precious Hughes describes the school as “old, dark and gloomy – like a jail.” Just 10 percent of students at Raines are proficient in reading and 4 percent are proficient in math.

The suit alleges that the schools, both rated “D” by the state, “suffer far worse conditions and outcomes than students at schools that are predominantly white and predominantly wealthy.” Nearby schools with majority-white student bodies have all of the resources lacked by Raines and Webster and receive an “A” rating from the state. At one neighboring elementary school, the student body is more than 70 percent white; about 73 percent of its students are proficient in reading and 71 percent proficient in math.

Thirteen of the state’s 19 school districts that receive an “F” rating are more than 95 percent African-American. The remaining six range from 81 percent to 91 percent African-American. The state’s top five highest-performing school districts are predominantly white. The differences reflect the disparities found in schools across the state based on whether a school’s enrollment is predominantly African-American or predominantly white.

Rita and Bill Bender of the law firm of Skellenger Bender in Seattle are also serving as co-counsel. It is their hope that this litigation will provide Mississippi with an important opportunity to finally confront and redress this most painful denial of a basic right of all children.

Indigo Williams joined the suit as a plaintiff in the hope that it will result in better opportunities for her 6-year-old son, who attends Raines. “All I want is what’s fair for my son and for all of the students like him in Mississippi,” Williams said. “These children deserve what the state promised: public schools that treat all children equally no matter their race.”

Here are some choice excerpts from the complaint:

 This lawsuit seeks a declaration that Mississippi has failed to live up to obligations it incurred in 1870 upon its readmission to the United States. Mississippi's readmission required it to maintain a "uniform system of free public schools," a commitment enshrined in the state's 1868 Constitution intended to ensure that the former slaves of school age and their descendants would receive an education equal to that received by white students. Since 1890, when Mississippi rewrote its Constitution in order to reestablish white supremacy, Mississippi has violated the terms of its readmission. As a result, black students in Mississippi still do not receive an education equal to that received by white students....

The adoption of the Constitution of 1890, along with subsequent amendments in 1934, 1960, and 1987, deprived African American children of the very school rights that Congress sought to protect with the Readmission Act. This lawsuit seeks redress from those violations....

The education clause of the  Mississippi Constitution of 1868 -  the clause t hat existed at the time that Mississippi was readmitted to the Union -  provided as follows:

As the stability of a republican form of government depends mainly upon the intelligence and virtue of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to encourage, by all suitable means,  the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement,  by establishing a uniform system of free public schools, by taxation or otherwise, for all children between the ages of five and rvventy-o ne years, and shall, as soon as practicable, establish schools of higher grade.

Finally, in 1987, Mississippi amended Section 201 to its current form: an empty shell of the guarantee that Congress obligated Mississippi to preserve in 1870 when it readmitted Mississippi to the Union.  The  constitution now grants the Legislature unfettered discretion to provide for public education as it sees fit:  "The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe." 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.
 Thus the lawsuit attempts to throw out part of the 1890 Constitution and replace it with the 1868 Constitution.   It even hints that the current state constitution is illegitimate:

The 1890 change to the State Constitution was also marked by procedural chicanery. Article XII I of the 1868 Constitution required that any "change, alteration, or amendment" thereto be submitted to a popular vote. But in the late Nineteenth Century, Mississippi's population of African Americans far exceeded its white population . As a result, despite the 1868 Constitution's requirement, the 1890 Constitution's framers never submitted their final product to a popular vote, providing further evidence that the drafters of the 1890 Constitution intended to subjugate the African American majority.
 The plaintiffs contend that the end result is:

The result of this systemic indifference toward public schools has been precisely what Congress intended to  prevent  Mississippi from sanctioning: a system  of schools that denies  uniform opportunity where it is needed  most. The  Mississippi Department of Education's most recent statistics show that , in schools, whose student  bodies are  at least 70 percent African American, the average accountability rating is D. In  contrast, schools with student bodies that are at least 70 percent white have an average accountability rating of  B.
 This is going to be a good one to watch in court.

Kingfish note:  The lawsuit actually complains about ant beds on the school playground.  You read that correctly.  See 5.53.  A patch of grass in Mississippi actually has a fire ant bed? Then there is the actual level of writing in the complaint.  Parts of it sound as if it was written for third-graders:

5.60  Ms. Williams wishes that J.E. could receive a high-quality education like he received at Madison Station Elementary. She worries that children at J.E.'s school are becoming uninspired because of the bleak conditions of the school and the education quality.
See Spot run.  See Spot sit.  See Spot write a complaint for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

By the way, Mr. Bardwell, why don't you explain why Desoto County spends $50-60 million less  per year on education than does the Jackson Public School District even though it has several thousand more students?


Anonymous said...

Hysterical. I don't see individual districts named in the suit. If I was a named defendant, Exhibit A is spending breakdown per student for JPS, Yazoo etc vs MCSD or RCSD. The funds are allocated locally. If there's spending malfeasance hold local leadership responsible. But that seems like a hard concept to grasp for some.

JPS used to be white. Yazoo probably the same.

Funding increased when more blacks entered these districts. If those funds don't make it into the schools then it's somehow whitey's fault? Gtfo.

Anonymous said...

Judge Barbour. LOL at these f@cking commie muckrakers.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the state of Mississippi make the people who use the "public" schools pay additional fees for part of the expenses. Like a toll fee on certain highways. Maybe this can alleviate some of the shortage of money available for school funding. It also may make those involved more accountable.

Anonymous said...

Running the state of Mississippi by the courts.

Where is the constitution when you need it?

Anonymous said...

In all honesty the SPLC is one of the most racist groups in this country... look at the cases and what the winnings are then look what they give the black families they claim to help. Also anti catholic as well.

Anonymous said...

Indigo, Precious and Dorothy are probably the only involved parents in those schools. I was a teacher in another life -- the difference in success and failure is parental involvement and teamwork between the parent and teacher (e.g. Homework = WORK DONE AT HOME which might require oversight by parents -- NOVEL IDEA). Could it be the white districts children have motivated engaged parents who REQUIRE performance by their children. Also -- Ben Carson, a successful man, never used "infrastructure" as a reason to fail. In addition, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, Rita, Bill and the SPLC, however believe it or not -- Washington, DC and other areas where money is SHOVELED in by taxpayers, with majority African American children in the public school system, have failing districts to, so metaphorically riding to the sound of the guns in Mississippi, is kind of old news. Almost a cliche -- let's kick the dog because that's what we've always done. This is happening in every area of the country where society is imploding, and actually in poor white districts elsewhere too -- so give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

I have an idea. Require SPLC to post a bond in the amount it will cost both parties to proceed with this suit, then when SPLC loses make them pay that amount into the state school funding pool. It's time to put an end to crap such as this and Musgrove's money grabbing suits.

Anonymous said...

What do they expect to achieve? Increased school funding? Good luck, the state is broke.

Anonymous said...

6:01 pm

The klan wanted the same bond when black folks sued to desegregate schools.

Didn't work then....won't work now.

HOT for Lynn Evans said...

What do they expect to achieve? Increased school funding? Good luck, the state is broke.

They hope to achieve a de facto Court mandated tax increase.

Anonymous said...

Damn stupid!!

I attended Raines in the 60"s... youngest of 4 kids with a single mom... and a struggling Dad..

I can't buy ANY OF THIS CRAP!!!!

Anonymous said...

SPLC is racist and they make money throwing out the racist label. The nut job that shot up the Family Research Council did so based off of info he got from the SPLC.

Anonymous said...

Always taking and never giving. Whatever it is won't be enough.

Hard to legislate equality.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I know it's not going to happen, but something has "got to be did" to stop these organizations, most of which are non-profits, with seemingly bottomless pockets from filing meritless lawsuits just to keep their name in the press. Why don't they offer some viable solutions to the problems rather than cause the defendant to have to spend millions of dollars to prove they (in this case the SPLC) are wrong?

Anonymous said...

I hate reading this kind of shit. It's like turning on the television and tuning into any of the Jackson stations at news time.

Anonymous said...

When they win this lawsuit, what will you say? Are Judges flawed or is the constitution not clear?

Anonymous said...

When it comes to education, the comments are always the same and schools are compared based on money spent per child without any comparison on how that money is spent in the classroom. Perhaps money doesn't have to be spent on building maintenance or equipment , etc. where less is spent per child.
If it's proven a parent had to provide toilet paper, that should be disturbing to everyone.
The statistics on education in MS are not gathered or reported in a way that is meaningful.
And, no one ever asks why Mississippi's schools, even the " good" ones, don't rank as well as the top national schools even when money spent per child is the same or less.
If this case provides more reliable and specific evidence about the differences in school performance rather than the tiresome political or racial nonsense, it will be money well spent.
I, frankly,suspect the answer is in how Mississippi has structured it's educational system so that it allows great disparity. From the outset , the lack of coordination and cooperation between all branches of education in MS has blatantly obvious to someone educated in another State. Here, there are local fiefdoms of education that are only as good and benevolent as the top administrators and political leaders. There's a difference between healthy competition and feudal warfare.
In other states, the IHL and junior /community colleges were so involved with the elementary , middle schools and high schools that I saw professors and teachers of trades from those entities throughout my education. These educators saw my classrooms as incubators. I was actually taught by college professors in subjects where my community didn't have a qualified teacher living there via film. They worked with a local teacher to provide the needed expertise. The State certified those with master degrees and doctorate degrees teachers to teach in their subject as well without expecting them to take extra " education" courses. Some were retired and some were stay at home mothers allowed to teach one class a day.

We can do better if we are willing to venture outside the same old box that some wish to defend.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:47
The SPLC is the same group that wanted these inner city west and south Jackson moms to be forced to send there children back to JPS schools. meanwhile, Many of these SPLC lawyers and supporters send there kids to private schools in metro area. I can name several. Its unfortunate that I have to pay tuition to send my kid to a school that has diversity unlike our local JPS school district. Nothing but race is preached when it comes to hiring and they certainly don't practice tolerance as they like to preach. So yes my kids go to a private school and its more diverse than JPS one race schools. I advise you to look into the "klan" history that your speaking of. It was all democrats and they blocked the doors from James Meredith at Ole Miss… today the democrats are blocking school choice for poor lower income blacks as well. NO school choice if they can't pay tuition. What a pitiful group of people. Your a brainwashed moron and on the wrong side of history.

Anonymous said...

one word response- "Clinton". 51 percent African-American. One of the top 5 districts in the state in likely any measurable metric. Plenty of African-American teachers and administrators.

Clinton firmly establishes that it isn't the kids. As mentioned above JPS spends more per student than De Soto or Clinton-shows it's not the funding.

What's left then? Teachers or Administrators? good luck with that one...

Sundance Rydr said...

HELL, that's not unequal education-it's unparalleled terrorism... Teach manners at home, and positive results will carry over... Students are running the schools... You reap what you sow...

Anonymous said...

Dear 7:16,

You're adorable.

The parents quoted in the lawsuit all complain about one issue: funding.

A parent buying toilet paper? Funding.
A parent buying room supplies? Funding.
Buildings in disrepair? Funding.

So, please, one more time, if JPS and Yazoo spend more per student than "successful" districts, who is to blame if those funds don't make it into the schools? Or more simply: where, if not the classroom, is all that cash going?

I'll wait.

Anonymous said...

Will Bardwell should check his own white privilege. He seems to have an Ole Miss frat boy fetish and a lust for golf courses that have histories of not being fond of blacks or women. His guilt must be killing him. My guess is he went to private schools growing up.

Anonymous said...

SPLC Director and lobbyist are pimps.

Anonymous said...

Everybody knows that the majority of elected officials didn't attend public schools. When 1 of these 3 cases is won by the platiffs, they will just change the rules.

Anonymous said...

The SPLC is an extreme leftist group who veils their agenda with the pretense of helping poor people. I'm sure they even convince themselves that their agenda will indeed help poor people. But, even a shallow dive into their actions reveals that their agenda hurts the people they purport to help. If they are sick about the public school opportunities of the poor, then why not insist the poor be afforded the same opportunity for a private school education as the rich? But, no, they advocate with this lawsuit or with suits against Mississippi's charter school law that we throw more money down the black hole of horrible education. How in the hell does that help poor people? As far as I can see, it only helps the people feeding at the public school funding trough. They don't want to help poor people. They want to fight for all the various leftist agendas and institutions.

Anonymous said...

EVERY school district in every state I've lived in are always asking for more money. The good districts budget their money and seem to do ok. The other districts simply spend the money and show no improvement. The good districts usually are in areas where there is parental involvement, the students have discipline and a sense of pride. In the others the parent or sometimes parents don't care, the students don't care and eventually the teachers don't care. It's not a complex equation. The complexity is how do you get parents (I use that term loosely) to stop having multiple children by multiple sires who have no respect for themselves or their offspring. I'll wait for the response that label the truth racist. The truth is the black community is the one that will benefit most from changing this culture as will everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Lamar County is an "A" district with a strong base and they just cut teacher salaries for next year. They also are hiring non certified teachers and long term subs in increasingly higher numbers. At some point it is about money and when the high performers start slipping maybe, just maybe people will pay attention.

Anonymous said...

"The klan wanted the same bond when black folks sued to desegregate schools."


By the way, Dullard, it wasn't 'black folks' who sued to desegregate schools.

Anonymous said...

The toilet paper thing is just a ruse. Only because it offers unbelievable shock value, is it even mentioned.

IF, a child REALLY went home repeatedly saying there were NEVER rolls in the stalls, there's a quick and simple fix... restock them. The cheapest item in inventory.

(If JPS can't manage the small things... ?)

I suppose it is possible that some Villagers could be having little ones stuff their backpacks with rolls to bring home.


Anonymous said...


Hold on to your britches because most of those listed as named defendants graduated from public schools.

Anonymous said...

gotta hand it to the SPLEC on this one. they get an A+ in creativity. another attempt to run mississippi via the federal courts. so long as we are on the subject of federal courts , most of you family -values republicans need to understand that the system of federal courts is the last vestige of reconstruction still left standing . the federal court system was created right after the civil war in order to subjugate the south. yet i have never heard the first one of you tea baggers call for the abolishment of the federal court system.

Anonymous said...

If SPLC was serious about education in distressed districts, the lawsuit should be suing the state for not taking over those districts. Why JPS continues to operate the way it does defies logic. Should've been under state control years ago.

Anonymous said...

The SPLC is truly more interested in seeing the successful schools fail than in seeing the failing ones succeed. Liberalism always pushes everyone toward the lowest common denominator.

Anonymous said...


Oliver Brown was black. He was the lead plaintiff in guess?

And you stole the word dullard from me....I am the one who called you a dullard.

Ignorance is not bliss

Anonymous said...


Bardwell went to Brandon High School.

But nice Ross Barnett/George Wallace imitation.

Anonymous said...


Tater is public. Feel public school, too. So was Jason Dean.

Anonymous said...

5:18 - Only a true dullard believes black plaintiffs sued anybody. It's always white folks 'suing on behalf of' or 'naming black plaintiffs'. As with all the other reparations that have come their way over the past 158 years, they simply sit in the wagon and reap the harvest. History, until re-written, is your friend. Dullard.

Anonymous said...

8:56 am Do you really believe new school construction are included in "the cost per student"?
New school costs in MS were most recently $42-$44 million with a scaled back plan in Adams-Natchez for $22 million.
New schools are built when taxpayers approve a bond funding.
The bond is not part of the " cost per student". The maintenance of the building , once it's built is.
Do I have to explain to you why maintenance as well as the utilities of an old building are greater than the maintenance of a new one?

Anonymous said...

The school I attended from k-12 _never_ had toilet paper either, and yet we routinely performed near (or at) the top of the state rankings.

What nobody is addressing is that even the top districts/schools in MS get stomped on when compared to the educational performance of other states in the union.

So when someone compares JPS to Madison, Southaven, Tupelo, etc it's not much consolation.

MS (and other states in the south) are significantly behind other states in the US. It seems clear that we must strive harder and allocate more resources than those other states if we ever hope to even catch up, let alone pull ahead.

Kingfish said...

Galloway Elementary is a very nice facility. Fairly new. Has all the amenities and comforts.

It scored an F.

Anonymous said...

Bardwell is a product of Brandon High School with myself. No we never ran out of toilet paper, but you can bet your ass our parents had to buy school supplies back then. When asked, we were told to buy a little more for the ones that couldn't afford it or wouldn't buy it. You know what I'm talking about. And parents like mine and his did so without much of a fuss. Guess that wasn't good enough back then and if you're 100% black, then the MAJORITY of those parents aren't pitching in and helping. Seems to be more of a home situation thing than a race thing, but the suits won't address that fact and call a spade a spade. They(the suits) wont be happy until they integrate like they are doing in Cleveland and ruin that school. It has to do with drive and want to and in some households, that isn't a priority.

golferinmississippi said...

Schools are like the canary cages for the communities they are in. Usually, the school goes the direction of the community. If the community is well taken care of, i.e. homes, businesses, etc, so go the schools. If the community is a cesspool, so is the school.

I've lived in poor rural areas, but we did good with what we had. The schools were poorer, but we managed. I've lived (and live) in a wealthier area(s) the schools were good. It wasn't all white areas either, it was in areas that were demographically fairly even. The key factor, the community cared.

In EVERY school I've been in, we've brought plenty of supplies for students and the school, not toilet paper, but our share of Kleenex, wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items as requested.

...but I recently saw an ant bed at my child's school. Maybe I need the number to the SPLC...

Anonymous said...

Bardwell is a clown and a mediocre attorney at best

Anonymous said...

Regarding ant beds...

How difficult is it, to fill up a container from a 'Hot' water tap inside the school, and walk (or "wobble") across the schoolyard, to the ant bed, and pour the 'Hot' tap water onto the ant bed?

In my "rich, white" world, this is what we do. We do that at the office. We do it at home. And, if we're volunteering at school, and spot an ant bed there, that's what we do about the ant beds. We don't complain and moan. We don't delegate. We don't requisition. We don't ask permission. We just take care of the problem. The water doesn't even have to be dangerously hot, to both kill the ants, and dissolve their mounds. Yes, the ants may "come back": but then, so may WE.

Do these poor, pitiful schools with the ant beds, not have water heaters? Do they not have containers? Are these poor, pitiful people in the underperforming schools, incapable of WALKING ACROSS A SCHOOLYARD while carrying a bucket?

Is this mysterious ability to deal with Fire Ants, part of my White Privilege? Should I be feeling guilty about it?

PittPanther said...

If hot water killed ant beds, I doubt the hardware stores would be full of chemical solutions for ants.

Simple question. Why do they suburban schools have money for the things they offer, whereas JPS cannot purchase books that the kids can take home? If we say they have similar amounts of money per student, how come the suburban school districts are able to provide so much more?

Notice I'm not talking about results. I'm talking about facilities and books and laptops and such.

Anonymous said...

Pitt, compare administrative overhead between the districts.

Anonymous said...

7:07 You speak out of both sides of your mouth.

Anonymous said...

2:33 am

Never argue with a fool I was told...

I will now listen

Anonymous said...

Pitt Panther, you once again demonstrate, with your "logic", that you are PART OF THE PROBLEM.

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