Editor’s Note: The League of East Central Mississippi Voters posed the following education question to Senate District 33 candidates, Bubby Johnston and Jeff Tate.
Mississippi legislative action supported charter schools and vouchers as a way to improve traditional public schools. Our state faces education problems at all levels: PEER report reveals problems with the voucher program; Mississippi Department of Education reports poor ratings for charter schools; and public schools face budget and teacher shortages. Ninety percent of Mississippi children attend public schools. What legislative actions will you support, especially for the 90 percent of children who attend public schools?
Jeff Tate: Public education is one of our region’s most vital assets, and it is changing. We need to think outside the box when we talk about solutions to the growing concern for public education. We must use all possible means to strengthen our public education system.
First, we need to offer competitive compensation to teachers based on the salaries of teachers in other states. If we want the best and the brightest to educate the next generation, we need to inspire highly qualified people to teach our children. Not only can we incentivize teachers by increasing salaries, but we can also offer increased social benefits. State benefits are the primary reason for employing many teachers in Mississippi.
As education as a whole changes in this generation and university student debt becomes a growing concern, we need to start offering different options for students. Recently, Mississippi lawmakers changed the graduation requirements for the class of 2022. Classes of 2022 and beyond will have the option of receiving a traditional degree with the choice of academic approval, approval. professional and technical, or distinguished endorsement. For professional and technical approval, students must complete a sequential four-course program of study in an area of their choice. I would like to give more choice to these students.
Currently, schools in District 33 can only offer a certain number of vocational and technical courses on campus. Many students are transported for miles on a daily basis to an institution offering other programs, and only 2 students per school can participate in each program.
I want our students to have more options. I would like the Lauderdale County School District to receive its own CTE center where students have many opportunities.
Not only do we need to focus on improving our career and technical programs, but we also need to focus on our students who are going to college. Currently, there are a few dual enrollment courses available to students on campus with a few additional options available for students who have their own transportation to the community college. I will support any legislation that brings more options for dual enrollment courses.
Along with our education system, our economy is also changing. Students must be ready for college or a career when they graduate.
Other states, such as Texas and Florida, have set up college high schools where students can earn an AA degree while still in high school. Increased opportunities at the high school level will prepare students for the next level, save them money in the long run, and allow them to reinvest in the economy after graduation instead of paying off high student loans.
We will create more jobs, lower the cost of post-secondary students, and increase tax revenues by implementing these changes.
As a result, more money will finance education, and a cycle of increasing tax revenues and increased funds for education will continue.
As a natural result of our workforce development plan in secondary and post-secondary schools, our region will be increasingly adapted to new industries.
We must always focus on increasing revenue, because increasing tax revenue will always benefit the education system. In the legislature, I will fight to bring back jobs in industry and small businesses in our region.