Surrounded by students, teachers and school leaders, Gov. Phil Bryant today unveiled his plan for creating meaningful improvement in Mississippi's public education system. Bryant worked closely with a cross section of education leaders and researchers to develop the platform, "Framing Mississippi's Future: An Agenda for Children".
"Mississippi children are struggling, and we have a tremendous opportunity to build a better future by investing ourselves in improving our education system," Gov. Bryant said. "In the last legislative session, we focused on strengthening Mississippi's business climate in order to spur job creation. This year, we must be serious about improving our education system."
"My education agenda was created in collaboration with education leaders, teachers and researchers and sets a clear path to success and will invigorate our public education system so our children graduate high school ready to make the most of the opportunities that follow."
Also known as "Education Works", Bryant's agenda proposes reform initiatives in five key areas:
Improving literacy skills and ending status-quo social promotion policies
Developing and rewarding teacher quality
Continuing early childhood education efforts
Increasing school choice
Improving college and career readiness
"A primary component of my agenda directs attention to Mississippi's literacy crisis and the serious negative consequences of passing children on to the next grade when they are not prepared. Data show that 46 percent of third-graders and 78 percent of fourth-graders in Mississippi are not proficient in reading. The problem only gets worse as students pass to the next grade, and by eighth grade, a student who couldn't read proficiently in third grade is four times more likely to drop out of school than his peers.
"Our children deserve better. My plan includes third and seventh-grade promotion policies that require students to be proficient in reading and math. We must sharpen our focus on building literacy skills, and my proposal, as well as my Executive Budget Recommendation, call for implementing rigorous, persistent literacy training in our schools."
Bryant's agenda also focuses on attracting top Mississippi students to teaching positions and rewarding high-performing teachers with salary increases.
"We must have the best and brightest of Mississippi teaching our students, I propose increasing entrance standards for teaching programs and offering scholarships to top high school and college students who want to pursue a career in education.
"I continue to believe that implementing a performance-based compensation model to reward our most effective teachers will serve our students and our educators by recognizing the efforts that drive success. I am pleased that Lamar County, Clarksdale, Rankin County and Gulfport school districts will pilot this concept next year."
"Equally vital to a child's success is the involvement and empowerment of parents. So many children in this state are trapped in schools that are not meeting their needs. Parents deserve the right to seek better opportunities for their children, and my proposals put value on school choice. Not only should we endeavor to pass a workable public charter school bill to give our children one more opportunity to succeed, we must also give parents the option to request their child be transferred to another school through the implementation of statewide open enrollment policies. My agenda further empowers parents by designating privately-funded opportunity scholarships for low-income families in D and F schools. Parents can use these programs to send their child to a school that better meets their needs."
On Tuesday, Bryant held a conference call with teachers around the state to review his agenda and answer questions.
"In my 27 years of service in education in Mississippi, I have never seen a governor reach out to so many educators to get their input as he has done this week. It gives all of us a renewed hope that we can work together to create a movement of change that will last for generations," said Dr. Ben Burnett, superintendent of Lamar County School District.
"I am convinced that this is the most critical period in the history of public education in the state of Mississippi," Dr. Burnett said. "Many decisions and challenges face us as we try to move Mississippi forward hopefully change the future of the children of this great state. We can't confront this critical time without the joint efforts our state leaders and everyone in the educational community of public education. Governor Bryant's commitment to making education a priority in this next session is a huge step toward reaching the goal of meaningful change in our state. We will all have to stay committed to the plan and work hard for years to come to see these results pay off, but our children are worth it! I am excited as a school leader about the opportunities for change that exist with Governor Bryant's leadership."
"My education proposal reflects a truth other Mississippi leaders have also understood," Gov. Bryant said. "Mississippi's road to success must pass through the schoolhouse door. The consequences of educational failure are too great to ignore. Mississippi has the opportunity to do better, and my agenda provides a clear path to success. Our teachers, our school leaders, our parents and--most importantly--our children deserve our support. Now is the time for us to work together and frame a better future for Mississippi."