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Mississippi schools must be adequately funded now to rise from bottom ranks

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By Davis McCool

Politicians are notorious for smooth-talking and skirting policy specifics while highlighting their achievements in office. State politicians are no different, and in Mississippi, where politicians haven’t had many achievements in recent years, the conversation truly must shift from one of past accomplishments to future workings.

Education funding in Mississippi has been dismal for decades, and there’s no denying that the lack of adequate funding has hindered classroom progress. So much so, that U.S. News & World Report ranked Mississippi the sixth worst state for education in the nation in its latest nationwide education rankings.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has praised his time in office regarding education, citing a Mississippi graduation rate that has increased almost 10 percent to just below one percent below the national average, as well as an increase in statewide literacy that has stemmed from the legislature’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act.

While yes, Mr. Lieutenant Governor, the state has taken steps to lower the rankings from dead last to 45th in the nation regarding education, Mississippi needs efforts to right the ship of education, and it begins with adequate funding.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state’s current education funding formula, has only been fully funded twice in its existence, and many are rightfully calling for change to the state’s longstanding tradition of underfunding education.

Mississippi voters decided in 2015 that it wasn’t yet time to constitutionally bind the legislature to fully fund MAEP, but it’s clear the state cannot flourish at current capacity for education funding.

Lt. Gov. Reeves and Republican leadership are passionate about education reform. After all, they noted a competent and educated workforce as the state’s top priority at the 2018 Mississippi Economic Council meeting.

After Republican efforts to shoot down Initiative 42, as well as the closure of the 2017 legislative session without acting on EdBuild’s proposal to dismantle MAEP and rewrite the current education funding formula, lawmakers have not exactly invoked confidence in Mississippi voters when it comes to education.

Voters have seen bipartisan failure in the state legislature to see adequate education form in recent years, and so, Lieutenant Governor, it is time to stop parading small efforts to gradually increase educational attainment and begin undertaking a massive overhaul in the current system that has seen Mississippi students suffer at the hands of state legislators.

The 2017 legislative session saw efforts to replace MAEP as the law of the land fall short before the lawmakers convened, and for the 2018 session, voters want answers. The state should have no business proclaiming a current formula that, for whatever reason, cannot or will not be fully funded, year after year.

EdBuild’s proposal, which sought to replace the current funding formula with a student-weighted formula, is still on the docket after inaction from the previous session. After an effort to require the legislature to fully fund MAEP failed at the ballot box behind the wishes of Republican leadership, those same leaders promised action would come, just not through MAEP.

Two years later, and here we are. We’ve just wrapped up another calendar year where the legislature failed to adequately fund the same formula that the legislature first decided in 1997 was best for Mississippi’s kids. At this point, the citizens of Mississippi just want results, and have long been tired of the same news that comes out of session year after year.

For 2018, let’s see answers. If a massive overhaul is what is required, let it be so, because the legislature’s current ways cannot flourish. Mississippians are imploring the legislature to take a long, hard look at the complex issue of education spending and decide that change is needed not tomorrow, but today.

We’ve seen promises from politicians across the state to fix our current education system, but meaningful policy has yet to be enacted. For 20 years now, schools have become accustomed to underfunded promises, and it’s not surprising to many that Mississippi continues to sit at the bottom of nationwide education rankings.

The state legislature has a proposal awaiting action on their desks right now, and Lt. Gov. Reeves and many in leadership positions have promised action for this session regarding a funding overhaul. It hasn’t happened in years, but Mississippi voters are willing to put inaction behind them for the cost of adequate funding, and in turn, adequate education.

Let 2018 be the year, and let Mississippi finally rise from the ranks of education by overhauling how the state provides funds for schools. It’s time for action, and we hope to see it soon.

davisDavis McCool, 19, is a UM journalism and public policy major, who graduated from Oxford High School. He has pursued writing in many different ways, including at his job with the Ole Miss Athletics Department. McCool serves as a communications specialist within the Athletics Department, specifically for the Ole Miss Baseball Team. He is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and active in Greek life through membership with Phi Delta Theta at Ole Miss. He found his niche in journalism at his high school newspaper, The Charger, where he served as editor-in-chief and won the Mississippi Press Association’s High School Journalist of the Year Award in 2017. An avid reader and wishful traveler, McCool hopes soon to run with the bulls in Spain’s iconic San Fermin Festival. He can sometimes be found enjoying reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or The Office.

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