OUR OPINION: Public school issues grab region’s, state’s attention

By NEMS Daily Journal

Public education dominated Mississippi’s civic discussions this week, with particularly strong emphasis in Northeast Mississippi, where nationally known accountability and curriculum expert Bill Daggett addressed timely and pressing issues to audiences comprised of constituents from most of the region’s 32 school districts.
The spotlight on education, including the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob Mississippi speakers in Jackson, strongly indicates the 2013 legislative session will include vigorous debate and sharp attention to the direction of public schools moving forward.
Daggett, who addressed a regional forum Tuesday in Tupelo on the Common Core Standards – scheduled for implementation in Mississippi and many other states in 2014-2015 – stressed the necessarily increasing role of classroom technology, including cellphones, owned by 93 percent of all students, and laptops, in the immediate future.
Daggett also reaffirmed his view that Mississippi is better-prepared than most other states for the rigorous Common Core standards’ testing and applied knowledge requirements through its top-notch accountability model, already in place.
In Jackson at the MEC event, Gov. Phil Bryant. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Phil Gunn all said education would be the central topic in 2013.
Bryant said he would promote his plan to pay teachers based on performance and to ensure children are not promoted to the fourth grade until they can read on grade level, and he promised additional training for teachers to provide innovative ways to help children read.
“We have to do a better job of educating our children,” House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, told the 1,000 people in attendance.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves restated his support of charter schools and appointed school superintendents.
Attorney General Jim Hood, the only statewide elected Democrat, took a different education tack, reminding the audience that MEC has long supported early childhood education. He also said correctly that “many of the political leaders supported by MEC members” have not followed that path.
Hood’s comments suggest controversy will develop with any broadly based discussion of public education, as was the case in the 2012 session.
All the participants should keep in mind Daggett’s praise for the accountability model in place and the potential looming in implementation of the Common Core standards.