Mississippi’s 2020 legislative session, which started on January 7, will have plenty of bills for lawmakers to sort through. Let’s hope education is at the top of their priorities.
According to a U.S. news report, Mississippi ranks 46th out of 50 in K-12 education standards. Clearly a lot of room for improvement, which is why ACTE is partnering with Empower Mississippi – an independent, nonprofit advocacy organization with the vision for Mississippians to have opportunities to make choices that improve their lives through education – to begin shifting the conversation toward a fundamental transformation of their education system.
Don Nielsen, a twenty-five-year school activist and program chair to ACTE, offers innovative solutions to the educational challenges facing our country. He argues that lasting change will not come mainly through local school boards, but rather through state legislative action that empowers school administrators to make reforms in the interests of their students.
Seldom is there discussion about fundamental change of the education system and the people who work in it. That is the real need and should be the topic of discussion for the next decade.
Education reform is not for the faint of heart. As many will point out: This is a $600 billion enterprise with more than 6 million employees. Public education has become a labyrinth of political, bureaucratic, and union empires that depend on a captive population of students and minimal quality control.
Given the current circumstances, we must now look at changing the laws that govern the present system with incremental tweaks that will allow for innovation, successful leadership, and stable governance. We recognize that change is difficult and takes time, which is why stability of leadership is critical to the process. Sustained positive change requires stability of governance and stability of leadership. Stability will only occur if we begin the conversations now with change agent leaders.
For this session, we suggest Mississippi legislators focus on these educational initiatives:
- Expanding school choice;
- Expanding “districts of innovation” legislation currently in place and;
- Beginning to examine Nielsen’s novel concept of “Institutes for Educational Leadership.”
Transforming our schools is going to take time. It will require valiant efforts from many but it can and must be done. The process begins with one state and their respective legislature. As Nielsen concludes, “There is no greater need facing our nation. Let’s begin now to transform our education system. Our children and our country are counting on us.”