The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit in federal court on Tuesday alleging that the poor performance of black students in Mississippi is the direct result of the state’s failure to live up to the terms of readmission to the Union at the end of the Civil War.
As part of the terms of readmission, Mississippi was required to create a “uniform system of free public schools” for all citizens, both black and white, in order to foster an environment of education that was necessary to democracy.
“Today, Mississippi schools are anything but uniform,” said Will Bardwell, a lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If you’re a kid in Mississippi, your chances of getting a good education depend largely on whether your school is mostly white or mostly black. That is not a uniform system.”
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However, the state constitution changed several times until in 1890 it allowed only for “separate but equal” systems.
According to the complaint, the constitution is now an “empty shell of the guarantee that Congress obligated Mississippi to preserve in 1870” and allows the state to severely underfund schools that serve African-American students.
However, Gov. Phil Bryant fired back at the complaint, calling it “another attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center to fundraise on the backs of Mississippi taxpayers.”
“While the SPLC clings to its misguided and cynical views, we will continue to shape Mississippi’s system of public education into the best and most innovative in America,” Bryant said.