New Report Shows the Effects of Funding Reductions on MS Low-Income School Districts

In this report we hear the voices of superintendents. Superintendents who “have come together to do what needs to be done for children and their communities.”

Listen as they describe how students and classrooms have been impacted by underfunding MAEP.

Listen as they articulate how they might use additional resources to accelerate achievement in their district if only they had them.

Listen and feel their frustration and pain as they are expected and required to do more with less.

We all can agree on the following:

  • Mississippi school districts are chronically underfunded compared to other states
  • Mississippi has historically underfunded certain populations of citizens over time and has created a system that is unequal
  • Mississippi has done very little to even the playing field even though both history and results clearly indicate educational inequality in certain areas of the state – primarily the most impoverished – the most rural – the most isolated and the most at risk
  • Mississippi must address these issues if we are ever to move from the bottom rung of the educational ladder by, at a minimum, fully funding the formula that was agreed to.

This report is just one step of many to get us where we need to be.  Read the full report here:

Early Education Means Better Paying Jobs for MS Children

Plans being made right now could determine what kind of jobs Mississippi will be able to offer our children and grandchildren.

Government and business leaders have formed Blueprint Mississippi which is an initiative to create goals and strategies to grow our economy for decades to come. The Mississippi Economic Council officials said, what they know so far is that improving education is near the top of the list.

Experts said early education programs lay the foundation for what Mississippi’s work force will look like 20 years from now.

View entire article here.

1 in 3 of Mississippi’s children live in poverty

Almost 49 percent of African American children in Mississippi are poor, or live on an income of 20 thousand dollars a year or less for a family of four.  “The last census data indicates that we’re having more and more children actually, more children than in any time in our history in poverty. And more families are sinking into the level of poverty every day,” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office.

Click here to view a clip from the Medgar Evers, Ella Baker Civil Rights lecture series with the Jackson State Fannie Lou Hamer Institute.

Jackson’s High School Dropout Rate is Alarming

 Too many youth are lost each year when they drop out of school without completing a high school education. They are destined for lifelong poverty and difficulty if they are unable to complete their education and acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to work and have a meaningful career. Communities will suffer tremendously if this problem is not addressed – they will lose a significant amount of human capital, and will face rising costs in public services to meet the needs of an uneducated population. Young people, particularly those in low-income communities must overcome many hurdles to be successful, including the conditions of their schools and neighborhoods. Communities must band together to figure out how to systemically deal with these issues – such as failing schools, family poverty, unemployment, and youth violence – so that youth can be successful. By using data to guide the planning and use of resources, communities can create sustainable solutions that will help to keep youth on the path to success in school and in life.

Read more about this issue in the August 2011 article from CLASP, Keeping Youth Connected: Focus on Jackson.

Early Childhood Education News Briefs

Prioritizing Early Childhood Education: We Can’t Afford to Wait - The Huffington Post

Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE PolicyWorks, applauds the number of recent editorials and blogs championing the benefits of early childhood education and the dangers of putting it on the chopping block. “Yet, in statehouses across the country, from Texas to Pennsylvania to Florida, early childhood education is hanging by a thread. The assault on this foundation of our student’s academic success, not to mention our civic society, is relentless.”

Early childhood education is a key ingredient for success of businesses - The Olympian (Olympia, WA)

Michael Cade, executive director of the Thurston Economic Development Council, writes that policymakers recently strengthened Washington state businesses and economic future when they found funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. This is a move that should be applauded as having this quality early learning program in our state is a critical component for reversing a widening skills gap that threatens our sustained economic growth.

Recommendations to HHS and ED on the Early Learning Challenge – Early Ed Watch

The New America Foundation’s Lisa Guernsey writes about the importance of building bridges between “birth-to-age-5″ early childhood programs and the early elementary school years. “Could the new $500-million federal grant competition — the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RttT-ELC) — help to build those bridges and, better yet, foster a more continuous system of early learning from the day a child is born through his last day of third grade? Absolutely. In fact, we see the RttT-ELC as an exciting opportunity for both the augmentation and development of better birth-to-five systems and the creation of new connections to the early grades of school. Principals and teachers in the early grades could learn a lot, for example, from the research-based tools that are currently used in a growing number of early childhood programs to promote better interactions between adults and children.

SEF Report Release: A Failed Experiment: Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarships for Private Schools


Amid a growing trend of state legislation providing tax credit scholarships to private school students, a new report from the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) finds that Georgia’s program providing tax credit scholarships to private school students has been a failure during its first three years of operations.

Georgia is currently one of seven states with tax credit scholarship legislation, yet it stands out as an exception among these states as the least accountable and the least effective in serving any public purpose.  Georgia’s program was created in 2008 by the Georgia General Assembly for the purpose of helping low income children transfer from poorly performing public schools to private schools. The program allows individuals and corporations to divert state taxes (up to an annual total of $50 million) to private student scholarship organizations (SSOs) that, in turn, distribute funding for students to attend private schools.

SEF finds that the state program has failed to achieve this primary aim, has cost Georgia taxpayers over $70 million in diverted state revenues, and, with a near-complete lack of accountability, has enabled widespread abuses.

According to findings in the SEF report, Georgia’s SSO program fails in several significant ways:

  • Scholarships are awarded to students who did not transfer from a public school as intended by the law;
  • More than one in ten of all SSO-affiliated private schools appear to be ineligible to receive funding;
  • SSOs have failed to distribute and spend as much money annually on scholarships as the law requires and have failed to meet other requirements of the law;
  • The program has failed to save taxpayer’s funds, as promised by its sponsors, and already has cost the state millions at a time when public K-12 and college education in Georgia have had deep cuts;
  • There is no accountability for the program’s tax-funded educational performance;
  • The program appears to fail to serve a significant number of low income students;
  • The program appears to support racial isolation and segregation in private schooling;
  • With religious schools comprising more than 70 percent of the SSO-affiliated schools in the program, it violates the state constitution’s ban on government aid to religious groups.

Amendments to the law passed last month make Georgia the only state to criminalize public disclosure of information about the program.  They also establish an automatic annual increase in the $50 million cap on the program, but do nothing to increase accountability. 

SEF is calling on the Georgia legislature to end, or vastly mend, the failed program.  SEF also cautions other states considering such legislation that Georgia’s costly experiment should serve as a warning – and should not be used as a model.

Download the report

Download the report



Love At The Cornerstone Of Memphis School’s Resurgence

Alisha Coleman-KinerPresident Barack Obama spoke at just two commencement ceremonies this spring — the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and Booker T. Washington High School right up the road in Memphis, Tennessee. What brought President Obama to Memphis you might ask?

In a word, love.

Alisha Coleman-Kiner is the principal of Booker T. Washington High School. Under her leadership, the graduation rate rose from a paltry 55% in 2007 to a respectable 81.6% in 2010.  When asked about how she was able to achieve such massive gains she replied:

I loved my children. I hired people who would love my children. And then I did my job.

Love,  it seems, lies at the cornerstone of her success.

Learn more about this remarkable educator and her recipe for success at the link posted below.