Lawmakers sue over Gov. Bryant’s school funding cuts

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Two Democratic lawmakers are suing the state following Gov. Phil Bryant’s mid-year budget cuts of public schools.

Mississippi House of Representatives

Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens

The lawsuit, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Rep. Bryant Clark and Sen. John Horhn, says the nearly $20 million in cuts to school districts Gov. Bryant ordered violates the state constitution.

“The Mississippi Constitution forbids any branch of government from exercising another branch’s core powers,” said Will Bardwell, SPLC senior staff attorney. “Decisions about the state budget must be made by the Legislature alone. When Gov. Bryant interfered with the Legislature’s (public school funding) appropriation, he not only shortchanged Mississippi schoolchildren—he violated the Constitution.”

A request for comment from Gov. Bryant was not returned Thursday.

Gov. Phil Bryant ordered several rounds of budget cuts this fiscal year, which ends June 30, but cuts announced in February and March were the first to affect the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). In Mississippi, education funding is broken up into Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the bulk of the money school districts receive, and non-MAEP programs funded by additional appropriations by the Legislature.

Gil Ford Photography

Sen. John Horhn, D-Hinds

The lawsuit is asking the Hinds County Chancery Court to strike down the statute under which Bryant enacted the cuts and to repay the money. In addition, the SPLC is asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the budget cuts from taking effect while the lawsuit plays out.

The case is assigned to Chancery Judge William Singletary.

Singletary recently ruled in a separate lawsuit filed by 21 school districts and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove that the Legislature is not required to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program every year. Musgrove appealed the decision, and the Mississippi Supreme Court heard oral arguments in that case on Wednesday.