It’s been over 30 years since former Mississippi Gov. William Winter passed the Mississippi Education Reform Act.
This act overhauled public education, namely publicly funding education and establishing compulsory school attendance law. At the time, Mississippi ranked last in education as well as in many other social and economic categories.
Fast forward to present day and, well, not much has changed. This is not to show that the Education Reform Act was unsuccessful; it made a huge positive impact on the education and development of our state. This shows that we still have a lot of work to do.
Governor Winter was noted as saying “the road out of the poor house leads past the schoolhouse.”
He understood that education is the foundation on which society, and our state, firmly rests. Without a strong education system, fostering the minds of our children, all other attempts in bettering our state are done in vain.
Thirty years later, current Gov. Phil Bryant is picking up the torch and leading Mississippi toward another sweeping education reform. Last week, the House approved Bryant’s Mississippi Works package of education reforms.
The package, which can be found here, includes testing students ability to read in 3rd grade in order to advance to 4th grade, testing students in reading and math in 7th grade in order to advance, continuing research and funding for pre-K education, and restructuring high schools whose graduation rates are lower than 80 percent.
Another part of the package, which is projected to raise some eyebrows if not some debate, focuses on teachers.
The minimum entry requirements for teaching programs will be raised to a 3.0 GPA and 21 ACT score.
Additionally, Gov. Bryant will award 100 scholarships to incoming university freshmen with a 3.5 high school GPA and a 28 ACT score, who agree to teach for five years in a Mississippi Public School.
Once hired, teachers’ salary will be based on their performance with high performing teaching receiving additional compensation.
If education is the foundation for the furtherance our state, teachers are the bricklayers.
Focusing on the quality of teachers will directly correlate to quality of education our students receive. Setting the standards high for teachers will result in high standards for students. We need impassioned, well-educated teachers in the classroom to mold the minds and inspire the youth of Mississippi.
It is worth every extra effort to find teachers that fit these requirements and worth every penny to provide scholarships to keep good teachers in Mississippi and compensate high-performing teachers.
These reforms carry on the legacy of the education movement that Gov. Winter started some 30 years ago, and with proper support, these education reforms will bring us further along the path out of the poor house.
Anna Rush is a second-year law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.