Closing the Gap

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In a joint meeting Thursday, higher education officials joined K-12 educators to find ways to better educate Mississippi's youth.

"The under achievement of certain groups of kids is a problem that we can overcome but not if K-12 sits on one side of the fence and higher education sits on the other," said Kati Haycock of the Education Trust Project.

The "Education Trust" is a project to encourage colleges and universities to work closely with K-12 primary education. According to her, teachers are what matter most and are colleges are taking note.

"We have started a K-12 partnership with Jackson public schools that has implemented the things the Education Trust talks about, it’s called the Learning Academy," said Dr. Ronald Mason, President of Jackson State University.

Dr. Robert Khayat, President of the University of Mississippi agreed, “We have got to begin with Pre-K and literacy training and move through out the entire system."

That whole system could reap the benefits of yesterday's legislation aimed at retaining and recruiting teachers, but a proposed budget shortfall of $162 million could force some of those teachers out of a job. A concern for not only public schools but for universities and community colleges as well.

"We depend on state funding to a great extent. And we think we at community colleges do a good job of making the most of our state funding and plan on doing that," said Dr. Tommy Davis, president of East Mississippi Community College.

"You cannot have a profound positive impact on education and not have funding," said Dr. Henry Johnson, state school superintendent for Mississippi.

Governor Haley Barbour has urged schools to cut resources rather than teachers if the budget comes up short.