Betty X: Shame on Mississippi

12026668_10207696034495715_258832376_nThe good news about being a public school teacher in Mississippi today is there was no time to dissect every part of our Initiative 42 loss. We all know that most teachers are lucky to get a bathroom break on our easiest days; and if you don’t know, then I’m sorry you aren’t listening to Mississippi public school teachers.

Shame on you. Really. Shame on you for not listening to teachers. Like my grandmother, who was also a special education teacher and the grandest matriarch to ever matriarch would say, “Shame on you!” She taught me to read at a farm table. Listen to her.

When you spend your days with young people, there’s simply no way you can believe, during the day, that our future is doomed.

Today I was able to help out at the Scholastic Book Fair at my school library. The Scholastic Book Fair is a fundraiser that helps put books into our school library. Yes. It’s another fundraiser, but this fundraiser is my jam. It’s about books!

I was able to see children excited about books and ideas and a world bigger than our four brick walls. I pulled change out of my purse to cover the few pennies a student might come short because of sales tax because THAT book in THAT moment was the most important thing that could ever exist to THAT young person.

I helped students allocate budgets. This book costs $7.99, and this pen costs $3.99. But you only brought ten dollars, so you have to make a choice. High five for choosing the book over the pen! Great choice!

Oh, you are short ten cents for that book about the wimpy kid or the book about the Holocaust or any book at all? No problem. I can dig up ten cents or so out of my purse. I can’t stand to see a kid who came to buy a book leave a book fair without the book because of a few pennies. I’d never tell a kid that was my lunch money. And that was my lunch money.

But now I’m home from school, and I’m decompressing. I’m decompressing, and my state just gave me a clear message last night that they don’t care. Sure, there’s some lip service about how 42 defenders fought a “passionate fight.” Yet when I attended the 42 public forum, I heard lip service from the opposition about how “emotional” we were being. These words are not synonyms by any means.

I’m decompressing, and I can’t shake this graphic of Mississippi, county by county, and how each county voted for or against 42. After spending a few months inhaling information and analyzing data and scouring the Mississippi Secretary of State’s online campaign finance reports for who is giving who dollars, I immediately come home, and I want to analyze this graphic for specific “facts” that would back up my argument to support public education, but right now, I’m decompressing, and I’m going to just say what I know.

Mississippi is still fighting Brown Vs. Board of Education. I repeat. Mississippi is STILL fighting Brown Vs. Board of Education. Y’all. We are still fighting Brown Vs. Board of Education.

So just for now, I want to write about the kids who didn’t get to buy books today.

Let’s talk about how it feels to be the kid who didn’t get to buy a book today. You know what that kid did? Waited at the library table. Sure, he or she could check out a book or read a magazine. We did not banish them from the library experience by any means. It was still a getaway from class.

That kid could still browse books at the Book Fair, but what’s the point in browsing from a middle schooler’s perspective? I’m just going to look like the kid who can’t afford books.

When you were in middle school, would you want to feel like the kid who can’t afford books? Don’t go to that quick parent blaming. That’s too easy. What I’m asking is, when YOU were in middle school, would YOU want to feel like the kid who can’t afford books? You don’t get to end that sentence with any form of “but” at the end. It’s a yes or no answer.

Because here’s what haunts me about that county by county graphic of Mississippi. Let’s talk about the Mississippi Delta. Let’s talk about Marshall County. Let’s talk about, you know, the black ones.  Let’s talk about it.

You know what happened in those counties when Ross Barnett could no longer hold the Supreme Court of the United States away with his hate. With Mississippi’s hate? Our state offered incentives. Our state offered incentives to build private schools and to build them quickly. They are called academies. Folklore tells us that the white men in these communities pillaged libraries and classrooms of books and desks to get these academies going.

And even today, in 2015, the white students go to the academies and the black students go to the public schools and when they take the ACT they score about the same at either school. That should tell you something.

Now let me tell you something Mississippi, while I’m looking at this map and I see counties with “good” schools who voted against Initiative 42 and I see counties with “failing schools” who voted for Initiative 42.

Shame on you, Mississippi. Shame on your hate. Shame on your fear-mongering. Shame on you for letting history repeat itself.

The majority of you don’t have to go to work tomorrow and look these poor kids in the face. You don’t have to give them your lunch money so they can buy a book. You don’t have to face the immediate, nitty gritty consequences of your actions.


Betty X is a teacher in Mississippi and is a contributor to the Mississippi Education Blog.


19 thoughts on “Betty X: Shame on Mississippi

  1. Standing and clapping. Why is it that we hear SO much about how important kids are to the future of this country, and how important education is but when it comes right down to brass tacks this kind of crap takes place? Like Betty X said, “Shame on you”.

    • I am a retired teacher with 35 years in the trenches. Ever since I have been in education I have heard the lip service to “our children are our future.” “We must do what best for kids.” blah, blah. All it is, is lip service. When it comes down to it, they do not do anything to help the children.

    • The last thing the GOP wants is an educated population, because if kids were truly educated, they would possess critical thinking skills. That, in turn, would be the end of the GOP.

  2. We will be at the Capitol. We will be there to demand justice.

  3. I was very against 42. Not because I hate kids or teachers or want schools to fail. That accusation is absurd. Don’t fall for the purely emotional reaction that this post aims to elicit. Quite simply, 42 as written was bad policy. Horrible policy full of unintended and even unknown consequences. To pass it would have been the height of irresponsibility. That teacher who generously gave ten cents and decided to forgo lunch is ignoring the fact that over $8,500 is already being spent every year on that kid to get what should be a quality education. In a classroom of 30, that is $255,000 per year. Think you could give kids a quality education for that amount of money? I sure could. Why not place your focus on that fact and start questioning where all of that money is going instead of constantly asking for even more and demonizing the rest of us who have our pockets emptied to pay record $ for education and have never gotten worse results. What about the hundreds of school districts and administration overhead in our rural state? What about the head education lady getting $300,000 per year to lead one of the worst states in the country when it comes to Ed results? I bet she could afford that book for that kid–and could probably pick up your lunch too. My point–just because an agenda-driven group presents an initiative with slick ads and a nice catch phrase doesn’t mean it’s good for Mississippi. Let’s go back to the drawing board with education, not just open the flood gates yet again and throw even more money at a very broken system.

    • Have you even been in a classroom or seen what it takes to work with children? I am a Mississippi public school graduate and I know that even back when I was in school, the legislature did not care what happened to public schools. Go spend some time at a school and see how lacking your schools are there. Mississippi is behind on technique and technology that is being implemented in every other state to help their kids keep up and do well. Your teachers and kids deserve your support, not your disdain and lack of information. Find out what teachers are being asked to do and what resources are being make available or not available to them. I think you would get an eyeful.

    • Common, you are exactly right, though you will be accused by Bonnie, above, of lacking “critical thinking skills.” In fact, you, like many of us, understand economics; you understand that allotting more and more and more money to the public school system is far less efficient than actually doing the hard work of analyzing the expenses and adjusting, rerouting, or eliminating some disbursements. All of this would be moot if a voucher system were in place, but liberals won’t hear of it.

      The market works, and it works perfectly. Let’s let the market work.

      • Where was this line of thinking when they agreed to fully fund education in the first place, or are we not talking about that?

      • The functioning of the market depends on the emergence of winners and losers.
        This may be appropriate when selling cars or television sets, but it is not appropriate to assume some of the human children we’re educating are just going to lose out.

        • No. We have plenty of evidence that market reforms do not work for education, where we work with human beings, not car parts on an assembly line.

  4. A sad day. I want to think the ballot was confusing…and really…was it necessary to make it as complicated as it was on the ballot? Or is it that the majority of Mississippians fail to understand that strong schools = strong communities = a reduction in crime = parent involvement = stronger schools…and so on. Brown VS Board of Education? Really, Mississippi? Evolve. I am not from here. I used to be an administrator at the NYC Department of Education, in a position which handled drop-out-prevention. As dismal as the situation was there back in the day, Mississippi public education is far worse today. Now that we are in Mississippi, my children go to an AMAZING school. But it’s a private school. I didn’t want to go there, but my conscience won’t let me put them in a public school at this time. In making this decision, I’m probably part of the problem, but when the state fails to even attempt to fix public schools, I am part of the pipeline where legislatures want us to be–a divide of classes–rich and poor. There are so many surprising great things about this state, but public education is not one of them. I’m not putting down the teachers who work through their blood, sweat and tears–they are the real heroes of our day. To the administrators who want change, they too are culprits for change. At this point, it’s a drop in the bucket mentality. Lots of wheels will spin, but someday it would be nice to be in a place that isn’t so in need of class separation. That’s what it boils down to. Until we change the schools, I have a hard time reading the local news or listening to neighborhood conversations about crime. The crime is the public school system in this state.

  5. Take the time to read the intro of my book about conditions in Mississippi in the 60s. Maybe then you can see how far the state has come.

    • @ Mike Dryden… Well, since we’ve made some strides since the 60’s, I suppose we should call it a day. Today’s message has been brought to you by the same people that brought you, “Congratulations on doing the least amount of work to keep your job.” Wow!

  6. After all this do people still believe that the funds will make it tothe class room? This is Mississippi. Everyone knows our educationdollars pay our superintendents and our media tells our teachers that the lack of funds is because of our legislature.

  7. It is untrue that administrative spending is the problem. There is a cap for administrative spending. AND, there are an unprecedented amount of mandates from the Legislature. Who is going to manage those mandates if we rid ourselves of administrators? Teachers? I don’t think our teachers can handle anything else.

  8. It’s all about power. The Mississippi legislature doesn’t want to give it up and they never will unless we get 42 to live on. I feel so sad that it didn’t pass and so sad that we live in such a backwards State. We’ve just got to keep fighting. I pray that we haven’t heard the last of Initiative 42.

  9. Since when has a confederate state chosen to abide by a federal mandate? Sorry MS. I would say “it is what it is” but the fact is – Mississippi is what it WAS.

  10. Pingback: Yes, Mississippi is still fighting Brown v. Board of Education | Deep South Daily

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *