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New PAC supports education

Public education has become a hot topic in Mississippi since the grassroots campaign of Initiative 42 that began in Oxford was narrowly defeated last year. But the battle has not ended and now a group of passionate public school parents from around the state have banded together to create a political action committee advocating strong public schools.

According to a press release from the organization, the mission of the nonpartisan Mississippi Public Education Political Action Committee is to help elect pro-public education candidates to the Mississippi Legislature in order to strengthen, support and protect existing public schools in the state.

“Considering that 90 percent of Mississippi students attend public schools, it’s important for public education stakeholders to have a clear, united voice in the political process,” said Tupelo resident and Mississippi Public Education PAC board member Kate Farabaugh. “Last year’s disappointing legislative session was full of controversial bills designed to threaten our schools and silence educators. We expect these kinds of harmful attacks to continue if unchallenged. That’s why we collaborated to establish this PAC.”

Founding board members include Farabaugh, Leslie Fye of Starkville and Julia Weaver of Ocean Springs. The PAC also includes an advisory committee consisting of public school mothers from Gulfport, Oxford, Ridgeland and Vicksburg who have worked behind the scenes to form the PAC. According to the group, the PAC will provide financial resources to campaigns of legislative candidates on both sides of the aisle who will stand up for strong public schools.

“As a mom, it’s very important to me that my children are able to attend a great public school with excellent teachers, safe facilities and up-to-date technology to help them succeed in an ever-changing world,” said Fye. “Public education benefits everyone. It should not be a Democratic or Republican issue.”

The PAC’s other guiding principles include:

• Ensuring that public dollars (local and state taxes) are used to fund public education

• Urging leadership to exercise caution in funding experimental education programs and insisting that such decisions be guided by the education leaders in local school districts

• Supporting local control of public education and fostering respect for professional educators

• Advocating for funding to meet state and federal mandates

• Insisting that resources and policies seek to retain and recruit highly qualified educators in every classroom

• Supporting academic and financial accountability measures that are fair to students and teachers and helpful in improving student achievement

“It’s so crucial for our schools to have the support they need to be successful,” said Fye. “Public education is the most powerful contributor to economic development in our state. A highly educated workforce is a magnet for the kind of employers that offer high-wage jobs, which creates a ripple effect throughout the economy. Public education is a tried-and-true means of achieving this goal, but only if our state leaders will provide the resources necessary for our schools to thrive.”

Organizers say the PAC was formed to protect all children in existing public schools — from the state’s most gifted to the most vulnerable — by encouraging legislative support for public education.

It counters the Empower Mississippi organization that advocates pro-choice and has backed political campaigns for state candidates who favor charter schools. Their opponents say charter schools take away funds from already struggling public school districts.

For more information, visit www.MSPublicEducationPAC.org.