The contrast is striking. There was Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves this week speaking at a county fair in Philadelphia criticizing those who oppose so-called “charter schools,” which he and the Republican administration of Gov. Phil Bryant have made a major education priority.
Reeves has become the mouthpiece for the plan that would siphon off public tax money to support charter schools, which often operate under less stringent oversight then required in public schools, and compete directly with public schools.
Charter schools are the darlings of some ultra-conservative business lobbying groups, private schools interests and some home school supporters. Fortunately, the legislature this year turned aside this attack on public schools.
While state Republican leaders, including Reeves, are off on the charter-school tangent, the crux of the real problem with bringing Mississippi’s educational level up was spelled out in a July 27 Time magazine article titled, “Mississippi Learning: Why the State’s Students Start Behind – and Stay Behind.”
The article noted that neighboring states have made great strides in early education, but Mississippi remains the only state in the South and one of only 11 in the country that doesn’t fund any pre-kindergarten programs.
The major obstacle to student success in our state is a high percentage of children who are unprepared to start kindergarten and first grade. Research shows that most students who start behind their counterparts around the country never catch up.
This is not theory. It’s a fact. Our state’s leaders are on the wrong track.
Next week thousands of woefully unprepared Mississippi children will enter our public schools for the first time. How many more years will we allow this to happen?