Note: The following is an op-ed column provided by Erica Jones, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators.
By Erica Jones
Over the past few weeks, public schools across the state opened their doors wide to welcome 90% of Mississippi’s students back to the classroom. My own children, Kenley Grace and Nicholas, now come home each day shimmering with the joy of reconnecting with friends and teachers. Public schools are places like no other. In every neighborhood in our state, they are where our children’s minds are challenged, their curiosity encouraged, their critical thinking skills sharpened, and their ambitions nurtured.
Public schools are cornerstones of our communities and fuel for our economic future and quality of life. Think about it: Mississippi’s future is learning in our classrooms today.
We all recognize the critical link between strong public schools, a strong economy, and a great standard of living. That’s why a broad coalition of parents, educators, business leaders, trade representatives, faith leaders, and advocates gathered a couple of weeks ago to launch Raise Mississippi, a collective movement to lift up our public schools, accelerate student outcomes, and improve our state’s economy.
The idea behind Raise Mississippi is simple: it’s a vision for strong public schools in every community–from Tupelo to Natchez, Greenville to Laurel–to ensure our students today become the skilled workforce of tomorrow and remain lifelong Mississippians.
The pillars forming the foundation of Raise Mississippi’s effort are straightforward and based on research that shows what works.
- Access to a broad range of in-school support that includes school nurses, librarians, counselors, art and music teachers, and support staff who help every student thrive.
- Classrooms equipped with up-to-date technology, books, and learning materials that prepare students to compete in a global economy.
- Nutritious lunches and health services that enhance whole-student wellness.
- Safe, clean, and modern school buildings.
- The best and brightest educators and support staff in every school, all of whom are paid a competitive, living wage.
With nearly every student in the state being educated in public schools, it is safe to say that great public schools are everybody’s business. Strong public schools will fuel our economy with good-paying jobs. Jobs that will keep our children in Mississippi as creators and contributors. Jobs that will support individuals who choose to stay here to live, work and raise their families. Our public schools are building Mississippi’s next generation of CEOs, innovators, artists, doctors, construction workers, and educators.
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We all have a role to play in lifting up our public schools–whether you’re a parent, a business owner, an employee, a laborer, a member of a faith community, or a neighbor. It will take all of us raising our voices and working together with our elected leaders at all levels of government to ensure that Mississippi’s public schools are as strong as they can be so that students who graduate from them are as prepared as possible to succeed to their highest potentials, right here at home.
Please join our movement to Raise Mississippi. Together, we can raise our children, raise our public schools, and raise our shared quality of life. Stronger schools today mean a stronger Mississippi forever. Go to www.maetoday.org/raisems and sign up to support this initiative. We need you on our team.