Boards, Officials Weigh Education Options

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Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday he's supporting a bill to prevent school districts from cutting teacher jobs to balance their budgets, but some school officials say the bill would put them into an impossible situation if state funding falls $161 million short, as it is now expected to do.

Greg Kelly, director of teacher recruitment for Jackson Public Schools, said districts don't want to eliminate teacher jobs but they may have few other options because personnel are the largest expense.

A top state Department of Education official has said up to 3,000 teacher jobs could be lost if state funding estimates stay the same.

House Speaker Bill McCoy has said that his chamber will release its own budget next week that will fully fund education, cover a teacher pay raise and pay all expenses for teachers and state employees’ health insurance.

Barbour told educators that he will work with lawmakers to shore up budgets for public schools, community colleges and universities.

Educators from elementary schools to college presidents gathered in Jackson. It was a joint meeting of the Mississippi Board of Education, the Community College board and the board of the Institutions of Higher Learning.

"The only entity that is charged with transmitting beliefs, mores, values is the public school arena, said state superintendent Dr. Henry Johnson.”From one generation to the next, we've entrusted public education to transmitting those kinds of values."

Those attending heard experts describe the difference between high-achieving schools and those who perform poorly.