By Representative Jay Hughes, special to the blog
MS Education Campaign Promises: Fiction vs. Reality: (Disclaimer: Independent thoughts and opinions follow)
During the battle over Initiative 42 vs. 42A, the incumbent politicians and majority leadership claimed: “We are for public education – We just don’t want “a single judge in Hinds County” telling us what to do.”
Our MS supermajority could have passed literally any bill or funding it chose to this session. MS public school system remains on life support; our roads & bridges are crumbling; and, health care access is the lowest in the country. These issues should never be partisan issues. Despite these realities facing Mississippians every single day, the supermajority focused mostly on Guns, Gays & God.
What has this legislative session delivered to improve public education for all children?
- Authorized Charter Schools to be in 60% of all current Mississippi school districts, without approval of the local school districts (SB2161). (up for re-vote in the senate Monday);
- Authorized Charter Schools to be considered “Public Schools”;
- Authorized Charter Schools to take tax dollars from the struggling local schools which are already underfunded;
- Made no plans or provisions whatsoever to improve the children left behind in the 60% of all schools, not “lucky enough” to win the Charter Selection Lottery; (nothing to cite here because no bills);
- Exempted Charter School teachers from certification process required for all public school teachers (line 273 & 279);
- Increased standards & regulations on public school teachers and administrators, while allowing charter schools to be free of the same regulation;
- Allowed teachers in charter schools to participate in PERS.
- Introduced and almost passed a bill to punish teachers and administrators from exercising free speech (political), even outside of the classroom – but then authorized teachers to speak about religious beliefs on marriage and gay lifestyle in the same place (HB1523, Lines 103-107);
- Refused amendments to the Charter School bills to require the admission process take into consideration underserved children (Comm. Substitute).
- Refused amendments to this Charter School bills to require transportation be provided to all school children, just like the public schools.
- Considered no bill to reduce the amount of standardized testing or the millions paid to testing companies.
The “Single-Judge” scare tactic: When an action was filed regarding this legislative session with a “random single Judge” in Hinds County, as required by law, it took less than 24 hours for the supermajority to have it taken away by the NINE Supreme Court justices.
So, as we enter the final leg of this legislative session, and address appropriations, I rhetorically ask myself four questions:
What has been done to improve education for ALL children in Mississippi?
What has been done to FULLY FUND public education?
What has been done to improve the QUALITY OF LIFE of Mississippians?
What has been done to lift Mississippi out of 50th in any category?
Like Sen. Chad McMahan, I hereby affirm: “When public education was in its darkest hour, I want the journal to reflect that I stood with public education!”
We MUST do better.
It ALL starts with education!
Jay Hughes (D-Oxford) is the State Representative for House District #12 in the Mississippi House of Representatives. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any other entity.