By Graham Carner
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
Last month my wife and I joined thousands of parents across Mississippi in the common rituals that define the start of each school year including the annual back-to-school open houses to meet our children’s teachers. We asked about homework, the size of their classes this year, got information about field trips, and asked what we could do to support the teachers in making sure our kids and their classmates have a great year of learning.
We do this every year because we’re partners with my children’s teachers in making sure my son and daughter receive a high quality education. We do it because great public schools are everyone’s business. We do it because local public schools aren’t just helping our children learn and thrive — they’re providing the foundation for Mississippi’s future success.
Strong public schools go beyond just imparting knowledge to students; they foster critical thinking and equip our students with the skills necessary to thrive in an ever-changing world. And while the responsibility of providing a quality education may fall primarily on the shoulders of educators, these skilled professionals can’t do this critical work alone.
Ninety percent of Mississippi’s students attend public schools, and it’s in all of our interests to make sure every one of them – from Pascagoula to Hernando and all points in between, are great.
We know what great schools look like – safe, clean, and modern school buildings and classrooms equipped with up-to-date technology, books and learning materials; access to school nurses, librarians, counselors, art and music teachers; school support staff that help every student thrive; and healthy, nutritious meals and health services that enhance students’ ability to learn. Great schools nurture an environment where dedicated, caring teachers inspire and challenge students in dynamic learning environments for all.
None of this is rocket science or beyond our reach, especially if we prioritize our public schools with sufficient funding and support.
Unfortunately, Mississippi is behind the eight-ball when it comes to making public education a priority. In fact, Mississippi schools spend less per student than almost any other state in the nation. Our teachers are paid less than their colleagues in most neighboring states, and our graduates are forced to leave for better opportunities in other states. This drains the state of precious human capital and puts Mississippi at a competitive disadvantage.
The good news is that we don’t have to let past history define our decisions today. We have the power to strengthen our public schools and make sure the next generation of Mississippi creators, innovators and leaders are equipped and ready to lead us towards a brighter future.
Lifting up our public schools is the goal of Raise Mississippi, a community-led movement of parents, educators, business owners, faith leaders, trade organizations and others working to jumpstart a statewide movement around a vision of strong public schools that meet the needs of all students today, to build a stronger Mississippi tomorrow.
In the coming weeks, Raise Mississippi leaders and partners will be engaging in conversations across the state to talk about how we can work together to strengthen Mississippi’s public schools and create the workforce of tomorrow.
Since the first day we sent our own kids off to preschool, it’s been clear to my wife and me that every Mississippi parent has a role to play in raising our children to be independent adults, hard workers and good citizens. And we all have the power – and the responsibility – to make our public schools as strong as they can be, by using our voices and our vision of what we want for our children and our state.
Please join our movement. Together, we can raise our children, raise our economy, and Raise Mississippi – and turn that vision for great schools into a reality for every child in every classroom across our state.
Learn more at RaiseMississippi.org.