Children in Mississippi’s capital city are getting shortchanged. The Mississippi Department of Education had been investigating the Jackson Public School District, and recently released
a report which found the district in violation of 24 out of the 32 standards that all Mississippi public school districts are required to meet. On September 14, the Mississippi State Board of Education voted to put the Jackson Public School District under state authority. For far too long, our schools have promised to close the achievement gap for children. We have successes for which we should celebrate and, for this, we must thank our hard-working teachers and principals. Still, too many of our children, especially those in Jackson schools, have not had the opportunity to learn. The report highlights dozens of instances where the district failed our children, hurting their chances to learn the skills and knowledge that will help them advance in life. For example, none of Jackson’s seven high schools provided the required amount of teaching days to students, and 10 elementary schools did not provide the minimum required instruction time to pre-K students. High schools have also been letting students slide on graduation requirements—students who did not meet graduation requirements still participated in graduation ceremonies, and students graduated despite failing their exit exams. This is unacceptable. I am sure several factors contribute to these dismal outcomes: money, challenges outside of school, issues of race, or partisan politics. Poverty is another factor we must not overlook. At the same time, poverty is not a proxy for destiny. Too many examples exist for successfully educating students in poverty. I expect the state’s intervention plan will create a new pathway for learning and success for Jackson students, teachers, principals and professional staff. I commend the courage that the state department of education, under the leadership of State Superintendent Carey Wright, has shown in laying bare the conditions facing Jackson students and pointing clearly to the need for change. Students and families in Jackson deserve better, as do the taxpayers and businesses that call the capital city home, and they need committed leaders like State Superintendent Wright working with their interests at front of mind.