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Higher spending on shrinking Jackson public schools belies complaints about charters

By   /   April 13, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

In its lawsuit that could cut off funding for public charter schools, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the redirection of state and local property tax to charter schools “unconstitutional spending.”

But how much spending are we talking about? There are three charter schools in Mississippi and all operate in the Jackson Public Schools district, which was rated an F district in the latest district grades by the Mississippi Department of Education.

The lawsuit filed in Hinds County Chancery Court says that $1.85 million in state and local tax revenue redirected to charter schools by the JPS could’ve paid for 42 teacher salaries, 18 new school buses and two guidance counselors.

Graph by Steve Wilson

SHRINKING: The number of students enrolled in the Jackson Public Schools district is at a 12-year low for the 2016-2017 school year, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education.

JPS enrollment, as shown above, has been largely declining since 2005. According to data from the Mississippi Department of Education, JPS enrollment is at a 12-year low this school year, with 26,948 students.

 Graph by Steve Wilson

ASCENDING: Despite declining enrollment, the Jackson Public Schools district is receiving more money from state and local taxpayers.

Despite the declining enrollment, the JPS has seen an uptick in its revenue since Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Charter School Act in 2013. According to a brief filed in the case, JPS received more than $192 million combined in state and local tax revenue in 2013. In 2016, that figure is up to more than $204 million.

Graph by Steve Wilson

UPWARD: Since the Charter School Act was passed in 2013, the per-pupil spending in the Jackson Public Schools district has increased 13 percent.

With declining enrollment and increasing revenue, per pupil spending has increased considerably since the first charter school opened in Jackson.

The higher revenues and lower enrollment numbers mirror trends statewide. In 2013, 493,000 students were enrolled in Mississippi public schools. Now, there are 482,000 enrolled. The Legislature appropriated more than $2.2 billion for K-12 education in 2013 and that number is now up to $2.5 billion.

Graph by Steve Wilson

SMALL SLICE: Charter schools — which are public schools — will spend $4 million of Jackson Public Schools’ more than $208 million budget in 2017, according to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The contribution made by JPS in tax revenues to the three charter schools is minuscule, with the figure estimated by the SPLC to be $4 million. Against a JPS budget of $208 million, that represents a 1.92 percent of total spending.

Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas set a pair of deadlines for the attorneys in the case after 90 minutes of oral arguments on April 3, with May 10 for proposed findings of fact and June 21 for any required rebuttals.

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Steve Wilson is the Mississippi reporter for Watchdog.org. Beginning his career as a sports writer, he has worked for the Mobile Press-Register (Ala.), the LaGrange Daily News (Ga.), Highlands Today (Fla.),McComb Enterprise-Journal (Miss.), the Biloxi Sun Herald(Miss.) and the Vicksburg Post (Miss.) Steve's work has appeared on Fox News, the Huffington Post and the Daily Signal. His bachelor's degree is in journalism with a minor in political science from the University of Alabama. Steve is also a member of the Mississippi Press Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He served four-plus years in the United States Coast Guard after his high school graduation and is a native of Mobile, Ala.