The Mississippi Association of Educators held a press conference at their headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 15, to announce the launch of Raise Mississippi. Officials presented their vision for bolstering public schools to ensure that graduates are equipped for the workforce. The effort encourages legislators to not only fully fund education but to be intentional about how the funding is appropriated.
“We are going to continue to advocate for them fully funding what we know about MAEP,” MAE president Erica Jones told the media at the press conference. “It has been fully funded only twice in the last couple of years, and that is something we’re going to continue to advocate around.”
Raise Mississippi promotes what it refers to as “smart funding” to ensure competitive salaries that attract and retain fully qualified educators, school nurses, librarians, counselors and school support staff. The initiative also promotes funding technological upgrades and learning materials as well as safe and clean buildings for all communities in Mississippi. MAE officials hope that by transforming how schools are funded, the state can improve not only education but increase economic growth.
“Smart funding decisions now and in January will help create over 25,000 new jobs in less than a decade,” Jones said. “Those are good-paying jobs that our children will be able to benefit from. It will help our children in the state and because they are going to have the opportunity to not only thrive in the classrooms today but in the workforce for tomorrow.”
Local attorney Graham Carner lended his support to the effort as a parent. He said that supporting public schools is important because they affect the largest population of students in the state. The MAE website notes that approximately 90% of the children in the state are educated in public schools.
“All parents want to see their children become happy, healthy and productive adults, and Mississippi Public Schools do that,” Carner told the media. “They did that for me, and they’re doing it for my children now and will do so in the future.”
“… The vast majority of Mississippi students go to public schools, and they come from all races, all backgrounds, all different life circumstances, which I believe is one of the strengths of public schools,” he continued. “You get that diversity from across the community, and strong public schools make for strong public communities as well. This vast majority of students, they are in our cities; they’re in our suburbs; they’re in our small rural areas.”
The group plans to engage legislators in discussions on fully funding education and on how they may better allocate resources so that the positive effects are maximized inside classrooms.
“The work that we are doing with Raise Mississippi is for our legislators to be at the table,” Jones said. “We do want to be in partnership with our legislature, but we are leaning on them to make smart choices, especially around funding and to do both right—especially when you start the legislative session this coming January.”
Education advocates, business owners, and members of the community and clergy joined Jones and other MAE officials in support of the effort.
“I believe that Mississippi can be the place we dream of,” Sue Hyland, the associate pastor at Wells United Methodist Church, told those gathered. “Raise Mississippi is seeking to do just that as they empower children and students to be the best they can be—because they have been given the very best resources with this initiative, with schools being fully funded, with school staff being paid a living wage, and (with) children receiving the best tools.”
“We believe that Mississippi can be the place that we all dream of,” she concluded.
MAE and their partners want elected officials to see those in the state rallying together in support of public education.
“We are just five months away from the upcoming legislative session,” Jones said. “So it’s important that we rally with our allies here to table as well as the communities throughout the state and start having conversations around what it means to fully fund and support our public schools throughout this state.”
Learn more about the Mississippi Association of Educators and its initiatives at maetoday.org.
Correction: The original story misspelled Sue Hyland’s name. We apologize for the error.