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Change is needed in education system

I’ve been practicing pediatrics in Oxford for the past 30 years. Several years ago, I began to concentrate my practice in the area of behavioral pediatrics and now these patients comprise at least half of my practice. As a result, multiple times daily I am confronted with the realities of our inadequate educational system.

Often times the services these children need like counseling, smaller classes and evaluation for individualized programs simply are not available or are denied. Lack of personnel, adequately trained personnel, or simply time are often given as reasons. Some parents are able with persistence and perseverance to navigate the system to help their children obtain these services. Most are not as fortunate due to family or socioeconomic situations. Many children belong to single-parent households, being raised by grandparents unfamiliar with the system.

The schools for the most part can’t be faulted. Many times teachers and administrators are using their own funds or donating their own time in an effort to help these students. Most are doing all they can with what they have. However, what they have is simply not enough. We must adequately fund our schools so that each student receives the best education possible. Each child should be able to reach his or her maximum potential.

We have approximately 500,000 students (K-12) in Mississippi. We have a dropout rate of 17 percent per year. That’s a total of 85,000 per year that our school systems are failing. These students will become adults who will be unemployed or, if employed, will have menial jobs with little future.

Twenty years ago, Mississippi ranked last or next to last in national educational rankings. Today, Mississippi still ranks last. What we have been doing for 20 years simply isn’t enough. We may be improving, but the rest of the country is improving more. Isn’t it time we did something different? Aren’t 20-plus years enough time with the same failed efforts?

I’ve read what both sides are saying concerning where the money is going to come from to fund this initiative. Both sides have their figures, and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But even if we had to make some sacrifices as a state, isn’t the future of our children and grandchildren (hence, the future of our state) worth that sacrifice?

I don’t know if Initiative 42 will solve all, or even most, of our educational issues, however 200,000-plus of our citizens want a change. So do I.

Joe T. Harris, M.D.

Oxford