Students rally at Capitol, lobby lawmakers to reject rewrite of school funding

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Ryan Nave, Mississippi Today

JPS students crowd the Capitol rotunda to speak with legislators.

Students from all seven high schools in the Jackson Public School District converged on the Capitol Tuesday morning to tell lawmakers about their experiences with underfunded schools.

They urged legislators to oppose a proposed rewrite of the state’s existing public school funding formula.

The Jackson Council PTA bused in students to speak out on issues important to them, tour the Capitol and talk with legislators.

Jackson Council PTA president Rosaline McCoy said the students were trained on four “target areas” of advocacy – fully funding education, making teaching a profitable profession, making kindergarten mandatory and removing testing requirements prior to graduation.

Several students spoke at the press conference and lamented the poor state of facilities in the district and shortage of teachers. They also spoke against possible passage of a House bill that would rewrite the way education is funded in the state.

Mississippi currently uses the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which has only been fully funded twice since its passage in 1997.

Murrah High School junior Kaitlyn Fowler talked about her experience with “crumbling infrastructure” and the problems that come with under-funding schools. She voiced her displeasure with House Bill 957, a bill awaiting debate in the Senate that would rewrite the state’s education funding formula.

“Tell me that decreasing our funding will improve the quality of our school environments and it is equal to what we deserve?” the 16-year-old asked.

Murrah senior Jeremiah Henry talked about his experience sitting in class with substitutes instead of certified licensed teachers, broken auditorium chairs and trophy cases the district cannot afford to fix.

“Even with these struggles of funding, House Bill 957 will give our state the ability to pay even less than they already are,” Henry said. “I ask that you people of power please support the dreams and futures of Jackson Public Schools by voting against House Bill 957.”

Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

JPS students visited the state Capitol Tuesday to speak with legislators.

Jim Hill High School senior Keedrick Palmer said he and his peers are expected to succeed at a high level but are not given the tools necessary to do that.

“We are placed in a classroom for hours a day and expected to learn, but we only have 20 books for a classroom of 35 students,” Palmer said. “And all those books aren’t even in good condition, but you expect us to pass tests based on the material in these books. You expect us to pass subject area tests with no subject area teachers.”

This is why it is so vital to fund public schools, he said.

State officials did not interrupt today’s crowded, raucous event in which approximately 140 people were expected to participate. Earlier in the session, officials admitted that the Capitol event policy was poorly enforced after Mississippi Today reported that advocates of school choice were allowed to hold a large rally in the Capitol, but the application of the Jackson PTA group was denied.