Jody Owens, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, announces a federal lawsuit challenging unequal opportunities for students in majority black schools in the state. Credit: Mississippi Today

A Hinds County judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Gov. Phil Bryant from two state lawmakers who said the governor’s mid-year budget cuts to school districts were unconstitutional.

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

Patricia Wise, a Hinds County chancery judge said the plaintiffs “failed to prove that they are entitled to any relief and that (a section of the state Constitution) is unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit, filed May 18, asked the Hinds County Chancery Court to strike down the state constitution statute under which Bryant enacted the cuts and to repay the money. In addition, the SPLC asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the budget cuts from taking effect while the lawsuit plays out.

Gov. Bryant ordered four 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.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs immediately filed a notice of appeal on Friday, according to court documents. The case will likely move to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the state Constitution’s meaning, and we look forward to asking that the court reaffirm its longstanding view of separation of powers,” said Will Bardwell, an SPLC senior staff attorney.

Bryant’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.