JACKSON, Miss.-- Governor Phil Bryant spoke about his education reform plans for the state today at Northwest Rankin High School among students, faculty, and media.
Mississippi's graduation rate is annually at the bottom in the country and that was clearly not lost on Bryant as he spoke today.
"Mississippi children are struggling, and we have a tremendous opportunity to build a better future by investing ourselves in improving our education system," said Gov. Bryant.
One of the facts that hit home with many people in the audience with elementary-age students is when Bryant pointed out, "forty-six percent of third graders in the state are not reading at grade-level."
He pointed out that the system cannot continue to let those children slide by to the next grade without getting on the level with their peers.
That was just one example that he pointed to that influenced the nearly 16,000 students in Mississippi that did not graduate in 2011.
"In the last legislative session, we focused on strengthening Mississippi's business climate in order to spur job creation. This year, we must be serious about improving our education system," he said.
And to put it simply he broke down his "Education Works" plan into five parts:
- Improving literacy skills and ending status-quo social promotion policies
- Increasing school choice
- Developing and rewarding teacher quality
- Continuing early childhood education efforts
- Improving college and career readiness
One noteworthy topic on the teacher quality was that Bryant says he is proposing the legislature set aside $1 million per year to give scholarships to 100 Mississippi high school students that have a 3.5 GPA and 28 ACT that wan't to be teachers.
These teachers would be made to teach in the state for at least five years after their education was paid for by Mississippi. He says that the quality of teacher in the classrooms is just one part of the huge education puzzle to be solved.
Another hot topic was the charter schools and "no borders" for where children can choose where they go to school. Bryant was firm in wanting some sort of legislation passed to give the children of Mississippi a choice to where they go to schoo, especially if they're in a failing school district.
Many problems go along with charter schools, and he confirmed that, like logistics of students and money involved but said he is hopeful the state of Mississippi can model itself after what Jeb Bush did in Florida.
Bryant said in the long run it saved them money that was able to be put back into education for other problems.
"I am convinced that this is the most critical period in the history of public education in the state of Mississippi," he affirmed.
One of the most telling facts he rattled off was that only 11% of Mississippi students met all the ACT college-readiness benchmarks when they left high school.
That clearly has to changed.