Gov. Phil Bryant described Mississippi's growing economic success and the state's progress in education reform at the Neshoba County Fair, where he addressed fairgoers for the second time since serving as governor. Gov. Bryant also took the opportunity to announce a grant that will benefit the state's National Board Certified Teacher Program.
"Mississippi has been making headlines lately with numerous job announcements and our continued effort to make Mississippi the best state for business," Gov. Bryant said. "Just this week, I helped announce yet another expansion that includes 800 jobs at Nissan in Canton. This announcement is another strong endorsement of the quality of our workforce and our positive environment for job growth and expansion."
Since becoming Mississippi's 64th governor, Gov. Bryant has announced the creation of more than 7,200 new jobs and more than $1.1 billion in private sector investment. This aggressive push for job creation helped earn acknowledgement from the American City Business Journals, which named Gov. Bryant fourteenth among U.S. governors for job creation in its On Numbers rankings.
Recently, the American Legislative Exchange Council placed Mississippi among the top 10 states for overall economic outlook for 2013, and the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity named Mississippi fifth in the nation for business startup activity in 2012. Area Development Magazine, an economic development publication, awarded Mississippi a second consecutive Silver Shovel Award for strong economic development performance, and Bankrate.com named Mississippi the number five state for retirement, citing the state's low taxes and lower-than-average cost of living.
"We are producing results, and our economy has reached $100 billion for the first time in the state's history," Gov. Bryant said. "This growth and recognitions the state has recently received are a result of the hard work that is taking place to move the state forward economically.
"When I travel this state and meet with companies to learn what makes a business want to locate here, I hear again and again about the quality of our workforce," Gov. Bryant continued. "I want to make sure every child has the opportunity to be a part of that workforce.
"When I spoke here last year, I promised you the 2013 legislative session would focus on education reform. The consequences of educational failure are too great to ignore, and I am pleased that the Legislature understood the importance of these education improvement efforts," Gov. Bryant said.
Gov. Bryant's "Education Works" reform measures were adopted by the Legislature in four bills.
* House Bill 369 expands opportunities for the creation of public charter schools in low-performing D and F districts while Gov. Bryant's "Third Grade Gate" literacy measure, Senate Bill 2347, seeks to improve literacy achievement by ending social promotion of third grade students who are not reading on grade level. The measure also allocates resources to schools to screen students' literacy skills and provide those who are struggling with additional reading help.
* Senate Bill 2188 increases standards for entry into teacher education programs at Mississippi universities. Students must have a 2.75 GPA on pre-major coursework and either score a 21 on the ACT or pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators assessment.
* Senate Bill 2658 creates scholarships for students with a 3.5 high school GPA and a 28 ACT score who wish to become teachers and commit to teaching in a Mississippi public school for five years. The legislation establishes funding for 200 scholarships for students choosing to enter education and offers an additional $6,000.00 stipend for those who agree to teach in critical needs areas. The bill also establishes a four-district teacher merit pay pilot program and requires school districts with graduation rates of less than 80 percent to submit a restructuring plan to the Mississippi Department of Education.
A strong supporter of the National Board Certified Teacher Program, Gov. Bryant announced at the fair that Mississippi has been awarded a $300,000 sub grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure that many more students will be taught year after year by teachers who have the proven skills to advance their learning and achievement.
National Board Certification is a rigorous process that allows teachers to demonstrate that they have met the profession's highest standards in the subject that they teach.
Mississippi was chosen for this groundbreaking work because of the state's commitment to supporting accomplished teaching. This grant will help bolster Mississippi's World Class Teaching Program at five universities across the state--Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State University and the University of Mississippi. The funding will be used to recruit and support early career teachers to pursue National Board Certification. To date, the World Class Teaching Program has helped more than 3,400 Mississippi teachers achieve National Board Certification.
"From piloting teacher merit pay programs to increasing teaching program entry standards and creating scholarships for students wishing to enter the teaching profession, Mississippi is taking strong steps in the right direction. Thanks to the Gates Foundation, this grant will help us support more teachers in pursuing top standards, providing more students with the chance to learn and grow."
Gov. Bryant also emphasized his continued opposition to an expansion of Obamacare.
"This June during a special legislative session, Mississippi reauthorized the Division of Medicaid and the existing Medicaid program without expanding Obamacare. As I have said before, any expansion of this disastrous federal health law in our state would result in tax increases for Mississippians or cuts to critical spending in areas like education, public safety and economic development and would leave Mississippi taxpayers shouldering the burden of a massive entitlement program."
Gov. Bryant also took the opportunity to speak on the importance of gun owners' rights and his support of House Bill 2. Gov. Bryant recently filed a brief asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to reverse an injunction entered by the Hinds County Circuit Court, which had prevented the law from going into effect on July 1.
"The law, which the Legislature overwhelmingly passed and I signed, clearly reflects the constitutional right of every Mississippian to bear arms. The brief I filed Monday explains why the circuit court's reasoning is flawed and its concerns are unfounded. Truly, The State Supreme Court should be the final ruling on this legal issue," Gov. Bryant said.