Superintendents prepare priorities Mississippi education group outlines its 2013 Legislative Agenda

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – One of Mississippi’s primary public school support organizations will ask the 2013 Legislature to fully fund public schools, increase teacher salaries, carefully construct a charter school law and maintain the stability of the retirement system.
Representatives of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents made those four points on Monday night while outlining the organization’s 2013 Legislative Agenda to a crowd of about 100 at the Link Centre.
Speakers included North Mississippi superintendents and MASS Executive Director Sam Bounds. Many area superintendents also attended.
“I’m glad we had this grassroots meeting tonight,” said Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden. “It helps to see how other communities are responding to issues on the forefront of education today.”
MASS will hold a similar meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Oxford High School.
“It is important for the sake of our kids, our students and certainly for the welfare of Mississippi,” said Grenada Superintendent David Daigneault, who helped organize the meeting.
Speaking on one of the most controversial issues from the 2012 Legislative session, Bounds said that MASS does not oppose charter schools. The organization is, however, concerned with how charter school legislation is written, he said.
The state Board of Education should oversee charter schools and they should be piloted before being implemented statewide, he said. Also, charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as other public schools and shouldn’t be able to cherry pick their students, he said.
“I believe every child in the state has the right to the same education,” Bounds said.
Teachers haven’t received a pay raise from the state since 2007, Coffeeville Superintendent Eddie Anderson said. Educators were willing to accept furloughs and supplement cuts two year ago, he said, because they understood the economy was tough and students needed a greater share of the limited money available.
“Now it is time for us to do better by our teachers,” Anderson said.
Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress said the state should maintain the stability of its public retirement system, since that is “a promise” that was made to employees.
Monroe County Superintendent Scott Cantrell noted that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program has been underfunded by $962 million over the past five years, or about $192 million a year. That is the equivalent of 21,000 teaching positions, he said. “Eventually, we are dropping tasks.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com