Mississippi educators to state leaders: start funding the public school system

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 26, 2015

As a grandmother, a 37-year educator, and the president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, I am deeply committed to the success of every student in our Magnolia State. This past weekend, I became deeply disappointed when I read that state leaders are again scapegoating public education teachers for a system that state leaders themselves have underfunded, underequipped, underappreciated, and overwhelmed.
Like many others across the state, I am quite tired of hearing our elected leaders use any excuse they can find to refuse to keep their promise of fully funding our students’ public education. Their refusal is the reason 200,000 Mississippians from all parts of our Magnolia state signed the petition to amend the state constitution this November’s ballot through Initiative 42. The Mississippi Association of Educators is proudly working on Initiative 42 to require our elected leaders to fund our children’s public education as promised long ago.
Rather than voicing veiled threats to those of us who speak out on behalf of Mississippi’s public education students, our state leaders should speak of their commitment to campaign and cast their vote for Initiative 42 to fund our kids’ public education.
Educators seek elected officials whose words and actions reflect what our students need: public education champions. Unfortunately, when this year’s legislative session ended in April, state leaders had once again stiffed Mississippi’s students by an additional $201 million. That brings the grand total to $1.7 billion since the last time the state fulfilled its financial obligation to our students.
Let’s look at the classroom resources that $201 million would fund for our students, resources would help to transform positively our students’ public education.
— $201 million funds an additional 5,000 teachers in our classrooms, which would mean smaller classes with more one-on-one time that students could have with their teachers.
— $201 million funds an additional 10,000 assistant teachers – formerly called reading assistants – in our K-3 classes, which would substantially assist in our kids’ literacy.
— $201 million buys over 17,600 new busses to safely transport our children from home to school and back again.
— $201 million buys over 16 million new textbooks.
— $201 million buys 5.6 million computers.
As grandparents and parents, educators and community leaders, we need to hear our state leaders speak of how eager they are to cast their votes in the legislature to provide all public school students with the tools, resources, and time to learn.
It’s time to return to our students the love and joy of learning and return to teachers the love and joy of teaching.
It’s time for state leaders to listen to educators who are the professionals that know what it takes to inspire the love of learning in our students.
As educators, students are at the center of everything we do. If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. This means providing the resources that each school needs so that our students have more one-on-one attention, inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, and the tools, resources, and time to learn.
We ask our state leaders to join educators – in both word and deed – in our commitment to students. We ask our state leaders to stop finding excuses and start funding public schools.

By Joyce Helmick

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