Education in a state of free-fall

Published 10:51 am Friday, December 30, 2016

Damn! Damn! Damn! There is no other appropriate comment for the state we’re in. Oh, I know the name of the state is Mississippi, but the state I refer to is the state of free-fall. There appears to be no Last Place that we cannot achieve.

Reflect a moment on the announcement that our governor has been elected Chair-Elect of Education Commission of the States. That gentleman then said, “This is a credit to the progress that Mississippi has seen in recent years with our education system. ECS helps lead effective education policy across America, and I look forward to working with education leaders across the country beginning in 2017.” If you can pinpoint progress in the state in the last year, you are a visionary.

The year began with the Mississippi Adequate Education fund being underfunded by millions of dollars. The year ended with a batch of new laws on the books that will result in public schools having more troubles and private (for-profit) schools having an easier road to replace them. Progress?

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But education is not alone in getting bludgeoned by the legislature. This is the same legislature who gave away the store last year in super tax deals to industry. This year education starts $173 million below its legitimate funding. And that assumes that the secret contract with EdBuild does not cut more funds. The Schools for the Blind and Deaf lose 14.62 percent of their funds. Mental Health suffers a 3.27 percent reduction. Basic services and agencies face an average 3percent reduction in funding.

Want an idea of what some of these abstract numbers mean? Well, consider that a Mississippi dare care worker in mental health or at the Schools for the Blind, who works full-time, 40 hours a week, takes home $918. If you keep any record of what life costs you, go down the list and mark out everything up to $918. What’s left? How will you and your family get through the rest of the month?

As you have already cast your vote for the folks in Jackson, maybe another strategy will work for you. Doesn’t take a lot of time, and doesn’t cost much. As you sent them to Hinds County to do your will, let them know that you’re not happy with what they’re doing in your name. The State website has phone numbers and email addresses for all legislators, as well as the new Chair-Elect of Education Commission of the States. Write to them. Call them.  Email them. Frankly, an effort to stop their madness is the only way to redeem our folly in sending most of them to the capitol.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.