Legacy of the Education Reform Act

Along with the stories from the State of Our Schools series in today’s Daily Journal, we also had quotes from several current and former state and education leaders about the legacy of the Education Reform Act 30 years later.

The act, which was passed by the Legislature on Dec. 20, 1982, in a special legislative session created public kindergartens, initiated a statewide reading aide program, evaluated schools based on performance, changed teacher certification and established mandatory attendance requirements, among other actions.

Here are what others said about the act’s legacy. Some of these quotes were in today’s Daily Journal, and some of them are additional.

Phil Bryant
Mississippi governor
“Lasting change in our education system takes time and leadership. I commend Governor Winter and his team on the 30th anniversary of the Education Reform Act of 1982. That landmark piece of legislation marked a significant moment in Mississippi’s commitment to providing a high-quality public education to all our children. But the task of reform is never done, and I hope that, as we approach the opening of the 2013 Legislative Session, we will see a renewed commitment to reforming our system, by rewarding our best teachers, recruiting more of our best and brightest to become teachers and providing students with educational choices.”

William Winter
Mississippi governor when Reform Act was passed

“I think the passage of the Education Reform Act in 1982 was not only significant in terms of the specific substantive issues that were addressed, but I think maybe the most important thing was the raising of public education in terms of our public priorities in Mississippi.”

Lynn House
Mississippi interim state superintendent
“That act was huge. There was so much in it that we take for granted today… Looking at education in its totality as a function of the state was very new. I was a young administrator when it was passed and that was the first time I felt like we were looking at education as a state function, not just one of local control.”

Tate Reeves
Mississippi lieutenant governor
“The Education Reform Act showed that with real leadership and focus, meaningful education reform can happen in Mississippi when the focus is on what’s best for children. The law made dramatic changes to public schools at the time and improved the overall quality of education. I hope this session we can carry forward that tradition for the 21st century needs of public schools with reforms, such as increasing literacy expectations among children and giving parents a choice in their child’s education.”

Gearl Loden
Tupelo schools superintendent
“Under the visionary leadership of Governor Winter and Jack Reed Sr., the Act offered progressive yet practical measures to improve instructional strategies. In comparing that time to now, leaders mobilized to make universal changes to boldly improve education. It’s time for the state to unite again for strategies to advance public education, including exploring increasing the number of instructional days to match competing educational systems in other countries, accessibility to high-quality resources for children ages birth to 5, and lastly, to take the necessary steps to offer universal pre-K statewide. We need to be mindful of attracting the very brightest of our young people into the field of education by offering the most competitive salaries and benefits packages.”

Jimmy Weeks
Lee County schools superintendent
“I think the biggest impact was public kindergartens. That was the state’s first recognition of the importance of early-childhood development and education.”

Jack Reed Sr.
Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, formed by Gov. William Winter to make education proposals in advance of the Reform Act
“Everyone running for governor since then has had public support for public education. It wasn’t that way until William came along.”

Andy Mullins
Winter’s special assistant
“It did change the Mississippi Legislature’s view toward education. It put it on the front burner. It put it out for discussion. You see today education is a top priority to be discussed.”

David Crews
Winters’ press secretary

“Can you imagine today, 30 years later, kindergarten and compulsory education, which are so basic, hung in the balance … If we did not have kindergartens in public schools or compulsory school attendance or teacher aides or all of these other reforms that were important and implemented, we would be so far behind other states, we would have never gotten Nissan here. We would have never gotten Toyota … There is no telling what other economic development issues… It is that raw economic calculus, having a real impact.”

Dick Molpus
Winter’s executive director of Federal-State Programs

“Obviously I’m proud of things like public kindergarten, compulsory school attendance, performance based accreditation and all of the components. The thing I’m most proud of is that that act broke down a barrier in Mississippi. It showed that people could have a voice.”

John Henegan

Winter’s chief of staff

“In connection with the Education Reform Act, I think the thing I’m most proud of is as Governor Winter said, public education was on the forefront of everybody’s conversation about politics for a good period of time. I really don’t think we would have the Nissan plant today without the groundwork that was laid by that.

“I also think one of the most important things was that we just let the state know that giving everybody, black and white, the same opportunity for education was critical to the people of the state…It was much more difficult to get that done than I think a lot of people really appreciate or understand. Frankly, that is something I am most proud of. I think we have a closer-knit state because of that.”