Kate Royals is a Jackson native who previously worked as a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications. She attended Millsaps College.
A new financial literacy effort will be taking place in schools and communities over the next two years thanks to $2.5 million from the state’s legal settlements with three credit rating agencies and two financial institutions. The program, called Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents, will focus on expanding teacher training from kindergarten through high school levels, provide incentives to teachers and schools to incorporate financial education into their students’ studies, support teachers with learning experiences for their students in and out of the classroom, and finally, build a financial wellness network and implement financial coaching through community leaders. Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents is a partnership among Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Attorney General Jim Hood, the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE) and the Mississippi State University Extension service. Fitch has long touted the importance of financial literacy and education. She launched the public-private partnership Treasurer’s Education About Money (TEAM) into Mississippi high schools and middle schools three years ago, which resulted in training of more than 1,200 teachers.
The state is arguing that a federal court should dismiss a lawsuit recently filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center charging that the state has failed to follow the conditions under the 1869 Readmission Act. According to filings by lawyers with Attorney General Jim Hood’s office, the lawsuit should be dismissed because the basic issue raised by the SPLC is not a legal but rather a political one and violates the statute of limitations and the Eleventh Amendment, among other reasons. The Eleventh Amendment deals with each state’s sovereign immunity and prohibits the federal courts from hearing certain lawsuits against states. The Readmission Act, passed by Congress, spelled out the conditions under which Mississippi could return to the United States after secession, including that “the constitution of Mississippi shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”
However, a new Mississippi constitution in 1890 and subsequent amendments to the constitution until 1987 violated that condition, the SPLC claims. As a result, the condition and performance of majority black schools in the state is subpar to white schools. The lawsuit points out that 13 of the state’s 19 F-rated school districts are more than 95 percent African American.
The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new set of graduation options beginning with 9th graders in the 2018-2019 school year. When those students graduate as high school seniors it will be with a new traditional diploma with new course requirements. The Mississippi Department of Education also will offer diploma endorsements in academic, distinguished academic and career and technical categories. Students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to earn a traditional diploma will have the option of an alternate diploma, officials said. The board did not vote on a certificate of attendance option.
Nearly one in 10 public schools in Mississippi report rates of extreme chronic absenteeism, or 30 percent or more students missing at least 15 percent of the school year, according to a national report. Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center’s report “Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence” shows 88 of 902 schools in Mississippi, or 9 percent, report “extreme chronic absence,” defined as 30 percent or more of students are chronically absent in a given school year. More Mississippi high schools experience extreme chronic absence than elementary and middle schools, according to the report. The national average for extreme chronic absence is 8 percent. Nationwide, absence levels are significantly higher in schools with larger percentages of low-income students.
Only one of three applicants vying to open the first charter schools outside the Jackson city limits is still in the game. The applications committee of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, the board that approves new charter schools and oversees ones already in operation, voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend denying the proposals of SR1 and Shades of Elegance Corp. The two groups had hoped to open schools in Sunflower County and Canton public school districts in the 2018-2019 school year. The committee made its recommendations based on the findings of independent evaluations, which are not yet public. Last week, the committee recommended that the board approve Clarksdale Collegiate’s proposal to open a school in Clarksdale, making it the only applicant with a real chance at winning approval from the full board.
A report released by Education Week shows Mississippi’s State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright is the highest paid of all of her counterparts around the nation. Wright’s annual salary is $300,000, nearly twice as much as the national average pay of $174,000. Mississippi has the nation’s 46th lowest per-pupil spending rate. Arizona’s state chief of education Diane Douglas comes in as the lowest paid at $85,000. According to Education Week, the reason for Wright’s high pay is a 1999 law requiring that the K-12 head’s salary be 90 percent of what the commissioner of higher education makes.
Kindergarteners in the 2016-2017 school year made greater gains on the STAR Early Literacy exam than kindergarteners in the prior year, the Mississippi Department of Education announced. Close to 37,000 kindergarteners took the test in both the fall and spring. The state average score for the fall test was 502 compared to 710 on the spring test. In 2015-2016, the score for the fall test was 502 compared to 703 in the spring. “Mississippi kindergarten teachers are continuing to do a great job helping students build the foundational literacy skills they need to be successful throughout their education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.