One Voice Supports #OurJPS
One Voice is disappointed by the recent decision of the MS Department of Education (MDE) to declare Jackson Public Schools (JPS) in a ‘state of emergency’ requiring an immediate takeover by MDE.
We have listened to two days of reports on MDE’s findings and the progress made by JPS in a corrective action plan they did not get a chance to complete. We are satisfied JPS was making significant progress toward remedies for the issues detailed in MDE’s audit report.
Among some of the progress was a restructuring of the administrative office, improved facilities and bus routes in addition to clarifying documentation regarding the number of high school graduates and their eligibility.
One Voice stands firmly believe public education thrives when local communities are in control of their schools. Consistent with HB 989, passed last year, this is a clear attempt to target majority black school districts like JPS for takeover creating an Achievement School District completely controlled by the state board of education. We also continue to see initiatives such as district takeovers, charter schools, school consolidation, and voucher programs as attempts to privatize the public education system. Taking school control away from local government has not proven effective in our state or our country.
We continue to support a fully funded public education that strives to provide a superior educational opportunity to ALL children. Fully funding public education would allow school minority and lower wealth school districts the resources to make improvements to the failing conditions. MDE is tasked with ensuring the quality of education for the children in our state. Instead of lending support and resources to the help improve the school districts in our state, the agency is placing more emphasis on investigations and takeovers.
We urge Governor Bryant to reject the takeover request by the MS Department of Education.
The One Voice Education Campaign
As Mississippi’s public education system still struggles under the yoke of inadequate funding, other legislative and policy issues regarding charter schools, achievement districts, tax credit, and school vouchers loom on the horizon. To combat this, legislation needs to be monitored and communities need to be educated. Additionally, under One Voice, education leaders can come together to share and learn best practices about critical education issues like accreditation, testing, and child restraint policies. This combining of resources allows district leaders to ensure the best educational opportunities for their students.
MAEP & 42
Recognizing the need to change the way education advocates across the state address the delivery of free public education for all children, One Voice began to explore opportunities for a nontraditional coalition-based campaign to increase quality education. Seeking to create a movement to increase civic participation in communities, it was important that a successful campaign be both inclusive and empowering to overcome long-standing racial, religious and regional divides in state politics.
To increase the likelihood of success, we determined it was critical not to anchor the campaign in any individual or organizational identity. Additionally, the work of gathering signatures is grassroots lobbying and thus an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(4) activity. Under Mississippi state law, ballot measure promoters are required to organize as a political action committee. Considering these factors and polling data, Better Schools Better Jobs was organized as a separate 501(c)(4) entity.
Understanding the importance of the initiative, communities across the state banded together, collecting just under 200,000 signatures and qualifying the measure for the 2015 general election ballot. Initiative 42 would have amended Section 201 of the State Constitution, making free public education a fundamental right for all children and requiring full funding for the MAEP formula. Although the initiative did not pass, education stakeholders remain steadfast in their commitment to improving educational outcomes for students in Mississippi.
MS Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Coalition
This is a coalition of parents, students, educators, policy makers, and organizations who have come together to derail the school to prison pipeline in Mississippi through training, policy advocacy at the local and state levels, and technical assistance to families and schools.