Constitutional Provisions

Blaine Amendment

“No religious or other sect or sects shall ever control any part of the school or other educational funds of this state; nor shall any funds be appropriated toward the support of any sectarian school, or to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.” Mississippi Const. Art. VIII, § 208.

Other Relevant Provision

“No law granting a donation or gratuity in favor of any person or object shall be enacted except by the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elect of each branch of the Legislature, nor by any vote for a sectarian purpose or use.” Mississippi Const. Art. IV, § 66.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes

Existing Private School Choice Programs

Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia

Mississippi Code Annotated Sections 37-173-1 to -29

Nate Rogers Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

Mississippi Code Annotated Sections 37-175-1 to -29

Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs

Mississippi Code Annotated Sections 37-181-1 to -21

Relevant Case Law

Chance v. Mississippi State Textbook Rating & Purchasing Board, 200 So. 706, 713 (Miss. 1941)

The Mississippi Supreme Court held that loaning public textbooks to private school pupils does not violate Mississippi’s Blaine Amendment because “[t]he books belong to, and are controlled by, the state; they are merely loaned to the individual pupil therein designated .…” The Court further held that any aid to religious schools is incidental and, were the state to deny use of those books based on the student’s choice of a religious school, it might well violate other parts of the Mississippi Constitution.

Otken v. Lamkin, 56 Miss. 758 (Miss. 1879)

The Mississippi Supreme Court held that a statute allotting part of the common school fund to students attending private schools violated the express terms of Mississippi’s Blaine Amendment.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Mississippi. Its constitution contains a Blaine Amendment but the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the state could provide textbooks to private and religious school students without violating its terms. By distinguishing between aiding students and aiding the schools they choose to attend, the Mississippi Supreme Court has provided strong support for a voucher program.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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