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I do not like politics, but I am passionate about public education

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By Deandria Turner

My dad always said I will end up in political journalism. He’s wrong. I still do not like politics.

I have been exposed to trigger warning and sensitivity about microaggressions that led me to pay attention and be more informed, but politics is complicated. The wide variety of issues ranging from roads to increasing taxes on the rich sometimes goes completely over my head. We all have political opinions – some very strong, but to me, it is all very complicated and sometimes boring.

So why in the world am I spending $1,000 for a political winter intersession class? Well, I need 300 level classes to graduate, and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore things that make me uncomfortable. I believe that is one way that I can grow as a journalist.

One thing I have learned during my journey at the state capital is that, although I do not like politics, I am passionate about a variety of things. One thing I am specifically passionate about is public education.

I am torn between public charter schools and traditional public schools. Specialized schools are amazing, and it’s a great opportunity for students to enhance their learning, but the Mississippi traditional public school system should be fixed. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves believes that by providing options, traditional public schools will “step up their game.”

“By creating options and competition, those public charter schools will not only improve the learning environment for those kids. In traditional public schools, you’ll see improvement because of competition,” Reeves said.

But for every one student who leaves a traditional public school to attend a charter school, that public school loses funding. So how can a traditional public school compete with charter schools if they have limited funding?

Mississippi Today hosted a panel in November in Indianola to discuss public charter schools there. Sunflower County Consolidated School District superintendent Miskia Davis said her consolidated school district is “fighting to keep doors open in our small schools,” and if charters come in and attract students, some schools may be forced to close.

Are charter schools better? Will distributing taxpayers money to charter schools enhance the children of our future education, or does it just sound good on paper? Are public charter schools the answer to Mississippi’s education problem, or is the only difference between public and charter the perception of character and student performance?

According to Rachel Canter of Mississippi First, if a student lives in a C, D, or F-rated school district and wants to attend a charter school, the school must accept them if there is room, but what if they do not have room? What will happen to the child left behind in the already struggling school?

There will be a new public charter school opening in the 2018-2019 school year in Clarksdale, Mississippi, an impoverished town in the Mississippi Delta. According to Reeves, public charter schools will increase student educational attainment, which will eventually continue to increase graduation rates.

But the school will serve 150 students in kindergarten through second grade, and eventually, Clarksdale Collegiate plans to add a grade each year. At full capacity, it will serve 675 students in grades K-8. What will the state do about the high school? Will those students be college ready?

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said job creation must be the state’s number one priority, and one way to do that is to continue to improve the education attainment level via public charter schools.

“For us to be able to provide a good workforce, we have to improve the education attainment level,” Reeves said.

My question is how will the state continue to raise the education attainment level for those students who are not privileged with the opportunity to attend a public charter school, and how will they continue to make sure underfunded schools receive proper funding to ensure students are college and workforce ready?

Will the state continue to consolidate school districts? Over the last six years 13 school districts have been consolidated reduced from 152 to 139. Will consolidated school districts bring in more superior teachers?

How will the state of Mississippi fix the educational problem, and where will the funding go? I guess that is another reason I took this class.  Maybe I can get one of those questions answered.

All in all, I am very thankful for my hands-on experience at the state capitol. Think about how one usually learns about politics. One may walk into a high school or college history class and maybe learn about great American presidents like FDR or Abraham Lincoln and all the great things they have done. One may even learn about how a bill is passed as a law.

But being able to get hands-on experience sitting in an interview with Lt. Gov. Reeves, and even getting the feel of the old, crammed, but nice press space was a true learning experience. However, I still do not like politics.

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