DuPree launches Phase 2 of the Mississippi Education Restructuring Program

We are serious about improving public education in Mississippi. That’s why we’ve launched the Mississippi Education Restructuring Program.

In Phase 1, we announced $85 million in tax cuts for public school teachers and parents, along with requiring three-year budget projections be used during legislative budgeting. Phase 1 was designed to keep our financial commitments to teachers, parents and taxpayers.

Now, I’m proud to announce Phase 2. In Phase 2, our aim is to give all students a compelling reason to come to school and stay in school, along with opportunities to excel in those areas that interest them the most.

Graduation Coaches

Each year approximately 10,000 students drop out of Mississippi schools. At 17 percent, we have one of the highest dropout rates in the nation. And while other Southern states are seeing success with their dropout prevention efforts, our rate continues to remain steady.

Therefore, we want to place Graduation Coaches in every secondary school in Mississippi. These graduation coaches will work with at-risk students to identify the challenges they face at school, at home, at work and in their social interactions.

Commission on Gifted and Vocational/Technological Education

Mississippi has one of the strongest job-training programs in the nation. One of the reasons is because of our vocational and technical education programs in secondary and post-secondary education. Likewise, larger school districts across Mississippi have some of the finest gifted programs in the nation for exceptional students.

At the same time, Mississippi still faces challenges with both our Gifted Education Programs and our Vocational/Technical Education Programs. In the past 15 years, the number of units funded in each of these two programs has stayed essentially the same. And while parts of each program have changed, there has been little restructuring or innovation to meet the needs and demands of our rural population and our ever-changing workforce demands.

As governor, I will appoint a Commission on Gifted and Vocational/Technical Education to study our current programs in an effort to identify our strengths, our weaknesses and our opportunities. Legislation to restructure these programs should be presented during the 2013 legislative session.

Compulsory School Age

Under current Mississippi law, a 17-year-old is not required to be in school. Unless these 17-year-olds are working full-time jobs, then they are likely getting into trouble or not making productive strides toward a successful future.

Therefore, as governor, I will ask the Legislature to increase the compulsory school age from 17 to 18.

We fully admit that increasing the compulsory school age will not in and of itself solve the dropout rate problem in Mississippi. However, studies show that in states where the compulsory school age has been increased by as little as one year that between 10 and 20 percent of students who would have otherwise dropped out of school go on to finish their high school education. If we have the chance to save 1,000 students, then we should give it a shot.

Getting Serious About Education

We’ve been talking about reforming education for years. We’ve had good governors who have talked about doing this. We’ve had good legislative leaders who have talked about doing this. And yet, we are still on the bottom.

It’s time to restructure public education in Mississippi. It’s time to take bold steps. That’s what MERP is about — it’s about action.

If you want to read more about MERP, please visit:

http://www.johnnydupree.com/merp

You’ll be able to read more in-depth about Phases 1 and 2, and you’ll get a sneak peek at what’s coming up with Phases 3 and 4.

If we work together, then we can restructure public education and Make Mississippi First.

Sincerely,

Johnny L. DuPree
Mayor of Hattiesburg
Democratic Candidate for Governor