The Hunt for Vouchers, After All These Years


After Magnolia Speech School for the Deaf converted from a private school to a racially integrated public school in 1972, Bobby Hamblin moved his two deaf daughters to Calhoun Academy, an all-white private school.

But in Fall 1973, the Calhoun County School Board warned Hamblin, who was white, that they would fire him unless he placed his children back in a county public school. He declined, arguing that his children would receive better education in the small private school rather than in the public school that specialized in their disability, and the school board fired 
him the next year.

After his firing in 1974, Hamblin told The Citizen, which was the publication of the segregationist Citizens Council, that he wanted his children in a "normal school situation."

"If I had moved my children to the public school just to keep the job there, I would have been selling them for 30 pieces of silver," he said.

Less than a year earlier, three other white teachers who had been fired for sending their children to Calhoun Academy lost in a federal lawsuit against the county school board and superintendent. They claimed the firings violated their constitutional rights, but a federal judge found that they did not because their motive for moving their children was to keep their kids from having to go to school with black children.

An Act of 'Corruption'?

In the years before and after the U.S. Supreme Court finally forced southern public schools to desegregate in early 1970, segregationists began advocating for school vouchers, using taxpayer funds to pay for private-school tuition. As the threat of forced public-school integration loomed in early 1964, the Mississippi Legislature approved a $185 voucher (equivalent $1,489.68 today) per child who enrolled at a "nonsectarian" private school and included a provision to allow local governments to sweeten the deal

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