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 — As the 133rd regular session of the Mississippi Legislator begins to heat up, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves gave his first interview of the year, sharing an optimistic outlook on the future of his state and insisting that Mississippi is making great strides in improving its state-run education program.
Despite what public education advocates describe as big budget cuts to education spending over the last few years, Reeves claims that Mississippi is in a better position now than ever before in terms of state-run education. While many Mississippi Democrats have protested the state’s lack of funding of education, Reeves stated that it is school performance, or output, that is important, rather than the input of money going into the school system.
“We’ve tried to change the conversation to no longer be one about input, but to be one about outcomes,” Reeves said. “What are the success rates, what are the results?”
Pointing to high school graduation rates rising from 70 percent in 2010 to 82 percent in 2017, Reeves argued that schools are indeed performing at a higher level.
In addition to touting higher graduation rates, Reeves also pointed to an increase in school choice for families, arguing that by giving parents more school choices children have better opportunities.
However, this move is not without opposition. The Mississippi Parent’s Campaign, a nonpartisan organization, argues that by giving families an option to move their children to different schools, the poorest schools in the state get poorer as their enrollment numbers drop.
When pressed about cuts to education, Reeves pointed to what he called wasteful spending in many school districts including the Jackson school district as a justification for education cuts.
According to Reeves, the Jackson school district was wasting up to $30 million a year on nonessential employees. Reeves argues that school districts can eliminate wasteful spending and reallocate funds to other areas to improve schools as a whole.