Jim Hood believes a quality public education system is the foundation of economic development and Mississippi’s success. Every child in Mississippi should have access to a quality education. Unfortunately, our legislative leaders have neglected our public schools and educators in Mississippi to fund massive tax giveaways for their out-of-state, corporate campaign contributors. As governor, Jim Hood will prioritize improvements to our public education system, such as implementing statewide pre-kindergarten, fully funding public schools, combatting the teacher shortage, and increasing teacher pay.
Implementing a statewide pre-kindergarten program. Quality early childhood programs positively impact children, families, and Mississippi’s future. Studies show that one-year of full-day pre-kindergarten can increase a child’s future earnings significantly. Students who participate in pre-kindergarten programs are better prepared for school and educational success. Mississippi children score disappointingly low on kindergarten readiness assessments, with only 36.1 percent having been reported kindergarten ready in the 2018-19 school year. Investing in a quality, statewide pre-K program will have positive economic benefits in the years to come, as well as better prepare children for K-12 education and beyond.
Mississippi’s state-funded pre-K, the Early Learning Collaborative program, has performed well since its inception in 2013. Students attending an Early Learning Collaborative score better on kindergarten readiness assessments than children attending any other pre-K program. Unfortunately, the program has never been fully funded to the amount allowed by state law. In his first year as governor, Jim Hood proposes allocating the full $33.95 million that the Early Learning Collaborative Act allows, and then expanding beyond that to provide an additional $18 million in funding over three years.
By fully funding and expanding the Early Learning Collaboratives, Mississippi can provide a pre-K classroom for about 23,000 children not already served by Head Start, private, or some other form of pre-kindergarten.
Investing in education. Quality public education is the key to success. Adjusting for inflation, Mississippi spends less on education than it did before the Great Recession. Under Tate Reeves, children in Mississippi public schools have been shortchanged by nearly $2 billion. Mississippi spends more than $3,000 less per child on education than the national average. Our neighbors are outpacing us in economic growth and mobility because they’re spending, on average, about $1000 more per student on education. To move our state forward, we must provide adequate resources for every child to receive a quality education. The future of our state depends on it. As governor, Jim Hood will support fully funding our public schools. We owe it to our children.
Combatting the teacher shortage. The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) estimates the teacher shortage crisis is about six times worse today than it was in 1997 when the Legislature passed the Critical Teacher Shortage Act. In the 2018-19 school year, Mississippi schools faced more than 1,000 teacher vacancies. Mississippi colleges and universities experienced a 40.7 percent decline in graduates from education programs between 2014 and 2018. MDE issued 55.2 percent fewer initial teacher licenses in 2018 than they did in 2011. When classrooms have vacancies, they are often filled with long-term substitutes, which can have adverse effects on a child’s education. Mississippi must take the appropriate steps to alleviate the teacher shortage and ensure our children have permanent teachers in the classroom.
The first step in reversing the teacher shortage is electing a governor who respects and values teachers as public servants, and who will fight for those who are educating our children. As governor, Jim Hood will support policies such as these to reverse the teacher shortage:
- Increase appropriations for scholarship options created under the Critical Teacher Shortage Act for education majors.
- Expand tuition forgiveness programs for educators who work in-state for five years after graduation.
- Help paraprofessionals and education support staff become full-time teachers through alternate licensure routes, reduced tuition rates, and scholarship opportunities.
- Encourage, foster, and support high schoolers to become teachers through Teacher Academies and Educators Rising programs that attract students to education, provide information, and help students navigate the path to licensure.
- Include teaching as a profession at state career fairs.
- Reevaluate Praxis (teacher licensing test) standards for teacher licensure.
- Provide immediate relief from the teacher shortage crisis by suspending PERS rules to allow retired teachers to return to the classroom with no negative repercussions on their retirement benefits.
- Adjust teacher licensing statute (for traditional and non-traditional program routes) to expand program entry requirements as below:
- Current Statute: Admission to an institution’s program for teacher preparation requires candidates to have a 2.75 undergraduate GPA AND a 21 on the ACT / SAT equivalent or pass all three components of the Praxis CORE exam: reading, writing and math.
- Proposed Requirement: Admission to an educator preparation program for teacher preparation would require candidates to meet one of the following: (1) Achieve a minimum 3.0 GPA on Pre-major Coursework; OR (2) Achieve a composite ACT of 21 (or SAT Equivalent); OR (3) Achieve the national recommended score on the Praxis Core.
Additionally, Jim Hood will work with education groups and leaders to identify high-impact strategies that grow our teacher workforce.
Paying our educators. Mississippi’s teachers earn the lowest average wage of all states in the union. In the 2017-18 school year, the average salary of a Mississippi educator sat more than $15,000 below the national average. In fact, teachers earn about 4.5 percent less today than they did before the Great Recession, adjusting for inflation. The $1,500 pay raise the Legislature passed in 2019 is nothing more than election-year pandering. Tate Reeves has had eight years to pay our teachers wages that reflect their value but has failed to deliver. As governor, Jim Hood will support raising our average teacher pay to the Southeastern average.
In the 2017-18 school year, Mississippi’s average teacher pay was more than $6,000 below the Southeastern average. To reach and maintain this benchmark salary level, we must recalibrate the teacher pay scale in Mississippi. Currently, in their 3rd to 25th year of teaching, Mississippi educators only see a $495 annual pay increase. As a result, Mississippi teacher’s base salary does not reach $40,000 until their 11th year. Jim Hood proposes a $3,000 across the board pay raise for teachers over two years, as well as a recalibration of the teacher pay scale. Under the recalibration, teachers in their 3rd to 25th years of teaching will receive a 2% year-over-year increase, and 5% in years 25-35.
Appointing a transition committee on education. If elected governor, Jim will get to work right away to improve our education system by appointing a transition committee on education. The committee will evaluate the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) budgets and practices to identify inefficiencies and waste. There is no reason Mississippi should have the lowest paid teachers and the highest paid state superintendent of education. Additionally, we too often see money wasted at MDE on projects that never pan out as was the case in 2018 when the Clarion Ledger reported the department wasted $840,000 before scrapping a $5.5 million software project. As governor, Jim’s transition committee on education will evaluate programs and operations at MDE to ensure funds are being spent wisely.
Evaluating standardized testing requirements. Educators and parents alike know one universal truth about education: our students are tested too much. As a result, educators are forced to teach to the test rather than focus on curriculum and subject matter. While Jim Hood recognizes the importance testing plays in evaluating student achievement, he also realizes we need to pare down the number of tests and let teachers teach. As governor, Jim will seriously evaluate federal guidelines, how much students are tested, what they’re being tested on, and identify unneeded or duplicate testing in our schools.
Jim Hood is putting Mississippi families first!