Friday, 28 December 2012

Educational Reforms set to change the course of Education in Mississippi

Image Courtesy : mde.k12.ms.us
The Mississippi government has passed different reforms in the education sector over the years many of which have met with varying degrees of legislative success. Out of the so many educational reforms passed Mississippi Adequate Education Program passed in 1997 has been the most effective.

The MAEP passed over the veto of then-Gov. Kirk Fordice, guaranteed state funding so as to ensure that all children received proper education irrespective of whether they lived in poor or prosperous school district.

In the 1990’s, efforts were made by the legislature to give health care coverage to teachers. Infact in 2000, $392 million was spent on teacher pay rise that made Mississippi at least compete with other neighboring states.
These initiatives “was a continuing constructive process of sustaining the momentum that came out of the 1982 Education Reform Act,” said former Gov. William Winter, architect of the 1982 legislation. “I think they are all essential blocks in our never-ending quest to bring education in Mississippi up to an acceptable level. And it is a never-ending quest.”

Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a chief MAEP architect while lieutenant governor, said focus put on education by such things as teacher pay raises, MAEP and others “encouraged teachers, administrators and students because it told them that the state believed education was important. It is important to let them know we are behind them.”
Facing Obstacles:

However each of these educational reforms met with obstacles before they could make any impact.

  • After MAEP was passed by both the houses of the Legislature, the then Gov. Kirk Fordice vetoed it. However they took a corrective measure and called upon the Legislature to override and nullify his veto.

  • Like MAEP, the Education Enhancement Act – the 1-cent sales tax – was also passed five years back.

The bill passed because the people were for it,” Wicker said recently. “Paying for buildings, buses, and books – together with property tax relief – amounted to a powerful argument in favor of the one-cent increase.”

Teacher Pay:

In the year 2000, it looked like that the Musgrove campaign on teacher’s pay rise was going to fall apart but both McCoy, a key member of the House Leadership supported the issue and following his support the Senate leaders introduced their own bill supporting the raising of teacher’s salary.

Falling Short

Though some of the educational reforms could be applied, there were many which could not be passed and implemented due to various reasons. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Ray Mabus was unsuccessful in his Better Education for Success Tomorrow (BEST) proposal which wanted to establish early child education, pay rise of teachers and even merit pay raises for all the high performing schools.

  • Fordice tried to introduce PRIME that will give the residents the opportunity of placing their proposals on ballot but he failed to garner enough legislative support and the reform fell through.

Since those days, education in Mississippi has made a lot of progress. In 2012, terms like “Star,” “High-performing,” and “Low-Performing” were removed and its place the grading system has come into effect like the A-F grading system. At present efforts are made to introduce charter schools and scholarships for students so that they can go to private school. Its best to keep the fingers crossed and wish that the required reforms come about so that the education system can progress and shine.