Mississippi education priorities under a microscope
July 15, 2001
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., last week announced the Senate had adopted a bill containing $161 million to increase Title I education funding to help meet the needs of "the nation's poorest school children."
Under terms of the legislation, Mississippi would receive an additional $2.4 million for Title I programs, which Cochran noted had "proven to be effective in dealing with the learning problems of disadvantaged elementary and secondary school children in our state."
On its face, this is all well and good. Additional funding for education in Mississippi is noteworthy, regardless of whether such additional funding comes from state or federal sources. A shortage of money is one of the problems plaguing education today.
But there seems to be, still, a vast number of school children whose parents have the unfortunate for this purpose distinction of falling into the middle income brackets. These children do not receive such special attention as Cochran trumpeted in a press release. Shouldn't their needs, indeed, the needs of all school children also be considered in education funding programs?
While funding programs for the benefit of poor families is an admirable goal, the overall objective of education funding in this country should be to lift the bar for all. The sad fact is, as community colleges, senior colleges and the workplace have long known, far too many students are being passed to higher grades without the basic skills required to make it in the 21st century.
Too many high school graduates are entering college only to find that the first course they must take is remedial reading or remedial math. For example, at least 60 percent of students enrolled at Meridian Community College take remedial courses of some sort. This means they did not get the basics in high school.
Far too many Mississippi businesses suffer from the fact that if they are to hire young people, they first must offer basic skills training. More remediation.
No one should doubt Sen. Cochran's good intentions in securing these additional funds for low income Mississippi school children. But so much emphasis on help for poor children is neither lifting the bar nor adequately responding to an education crisis in America today.