Bryant on Education Reform

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With education set to dominate at the state Capitol this year, Gov. Phil Bryant isn't holding back from what he calls an aggressive stop-at-nothing approach to making big changes to how kids are educated.

"We call it Education Works, because, in fact, it does," said Bryant.

The governor detailed that approach to a large part of the state's business sector during the Mississippi Economic Council's Capital Day. As one of state's largest private non-partisan groups, the council is backing Bryant's policy.

"It will bring results if we all continue to do the right things," said MEC executive director Blake Wilson.

Those things, according to Bryant, start early and he says it's more than just charter schools. He's asking the legislature for $3 million to fund research from Mississippi Building Blocks. He's also pushing a move to hold third graders back based on literacy.

"If that child can't read at the third grade level, stop it right there," Bryant said. "Don't socially promote him on to the fourth grade."

To provide teacher incentives, Bryant is asking the legislature for $2 million to fund a pilot program for a performance-based pay system.

"I'm not expecting them to take a class that's failing and make it a star, but have progress and move them forward," he said.

The governor is also pushing lawmakers to allow open enrollment which would let any student cross district lines and go to the school of his choice.

"Let parents have a choice so a child can have a chance," said Bryant. "And you know what we call that too. Competition. You know what those schools losing those kids are going to do; they're going to figure out a way to get better."

Bryant says the accepting schools would have to agree and have room in the classroom for it to happen. While he doesn't expect his entire wish list to be granted, Bryant says it's time to get started.