State Farm Insurance gives $1.5 million to Miss. dropout prevention plan

Published 3:43 pm Friday, October 26, 2007

State Farm Insurance Cos. has given $1.5 million to Mississippi’s dropout prevention project for a public awareness campaign that kicks off in January.

State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds made the announcement Thursday in Jackson. The money will be used to help educate the public about the importance of keeping students in school and ways to achieve that goal.

Advertisements will air on television, radio and appear on yard signs, restaurants and “any place that has a marquee,” Bounds said.

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“I don’t want people to be able to turn around without running into this issue,” Bounds said.

Along with the public awareness campaign, the state will sponsor two summits in January. In one, students from across the state will gather to tell officials some of the reasons their peers leave school early, Bounds said.

Another summit will bring together community, church, school and business leaders to discuss what they can do to lower the dropout rate, he said.

The Dropout Prevention Plan is set to begin during the 2008-09 school year. It is part of Bounds’ five-year plan to redesign the state’s school system. At a cost of about $125 million, the redesign project calls for new courses, new equipment, retrained teachers and the creation of career pathways that students in grades 10 through 12 can select.

Bounds has said that online courses, flexible classroom hours and more study options that include dual college credit are among the components he believes will reduce the dropout rate.

The goal is to cut Mississippi’s 26.6 percent dropout rate in half by 2013.

State Farm spokesman Mike Fernandez said the project can translate into a stronger work force and economy for Mississippi.

“We look to be an active partner,” Fernandez said Thursday. “We’re striving together to reach Mississippi’s full potential.”

Lawmakers approved $5 million for Bounds’ redesign plan for the current fiscal year. He’s asking for $18 million for the year that begins July 1.