Meridian Star

March 18, 2014

Lawmaker sues state over school funding

The Associated Press
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — A state lawmaker has sued the Mississippi Department of Education and Gov. Phil Bryant for underfunding the Leflore County School District.

Democratic Rep. Willie Perkins, an attorney from Greenwood, filed the federal lawsuit Monday in Mississippi's Southern District.

The lawsuit contends the state, through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, has underfunded the district by $6 million from 2010 to this year, the Clarion-Ledger reports ( ). MAEP is the formula used to determine funding for each of Mississippi's 151 school districts.

The lawsuit also alleges the Department of Education violated the due process rights of a former superintendent and four school board members who were ousted as part of a state takeover of the schools last fall.

A Bryant spokeswoman said the governor hasn't seen the lawsuit and could not comment. An education department spokesman said the same.

Perkins argued in a hearing last fall before the accreditation commission that former superintendent Dr. Viola Williams McCaskill and the school board were entitled to a legal hearing before the state seized control of the failing school district.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd issued a temporary restraining preventing the takeover, but the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated it last fall. The district has been under state control since.

In addition to McCaskill, plaintiffs are former school board members, Dr. Roy Hudson, Shemeka Collins, Emma Harris and Glenda Neal. Earnestine Hawkins, whose child attends Leflore County Schools, is also listed as a plaintiff.

Other defendants named in the suit include the state, the State Board of Education and the state Commission on School Accreditation.