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This is one in a series of stories produced by students taking a state government reporting class at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The class is led by Mississippi Today co-editor Fred Anklam Jr. and Meek school journalism professor LaReeca Rucker.
JACKSON — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves told a group of University of Mississippi journalism students Wednesday that job creation must be the states number one priority and one way to do that is to continue to improve the education attainment level.
“For us to be able to provide a good workforce we have to improve the education attainment level,” Reeves said.
Reeves said he is most passionate on improving educational outcomes for Mississippi students. He said that he believes that one way to improve those outcomes, especially in impoverished areas, is by providing an option for students to attend public charter schools.
“One thing we are trying to do in low income areas because that’s critically important is we have been very strong supporters in adding public charter schools,” Reeves said. “By creating options and competition those public charter schools will not only improve the learning environment for those kids. In traditional public schools you’ll see improvement because of competition.”
Another way the state is trying to improve the educational outcomes is by consolidating school districts. So far, school districts have been reduced from 152 to 139 over the last six years.
“We believe the best way for students get to a quality education is for there to be a quality teacher in the classroom and the best way to have a quality teacher in the classroom is to spend more money in the classroom and less money in the district’s office,” Reeves said. “We should no longer be worried about input in the schools, but about output.”
By output, he said he means constantly raising expectations of students and continuing to increase graduation rates. In 2017, graduation rates in the state of Mississippi improved to 82.3 percent, just shy of the national average of 83.3 percent.
“That is a big deal because creating 3,000 more people graduating with a high school degree overtime is going to have a huge impact on the quality of our work enforcement, Reeves said. “All we did was raise the level of expectations, but Mississippi administrators, Mississippi teachers, Mississippi parents, and most importantly, Mississippi kids have risen up and met those increased expectations.”
In the 2017 session, the Legislature did not write and pass a new school funding formula, therefore, for the year of 2018, Reeves and others are pushing for a student-weighted formula.
“At the end of the day it’s how those kids are performing that will determine how well they do in life, but also how strong our economy is,” he said.