Earlier this week, students in University English I sections expressed interest in discussing ways to improve the quality of education in Mississippi schools. We moved in two directions: improving funding for education, and the ways private schools have affected the success of education.
Regarding the former: Mississippi spent about $8700 per pupil in the most recent collection of data offered by the Census Bureau. That’s less than every other state in the Deep South, and 46th nationwide, behind Idaho, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Mississippi legislators will not raise taxes to increase spending on education–or anything else–though growth in the state’s revenues has allowed for a $15000 pay raise for teachers. To make infrastructure improvements, districts must increase local millage rates. This works well for affluent districts. It doesn’t work at all for poorer ones. Regardless of increases in expenditures, though, it seems fair to ask whether or not schools can spend their money more efficiently, and whether or not their priorities are well placed.
Regarding the latter: private schools have been a fixture in Mississippi since Brown v. Topeka. Most of them have at least tried to atone for the race-based sins of their pasts. However, we may legitimately ask about the impact of such schools on K-12 education in general. But the issue is prickly. Why should parents with means send their children to schools that underperform?
(Full disclosure: my own oldest son attended both public and private schools; my youngest attended only the private school. I’ve seen the best–and the worst–of what’s available to them educationally. But incendiary dialogue won’t produce good results here.)