Leaders from a wide range of Mississippi business, industry, government and education gathered in Jackson last week for a forum about enhancing the state’s educated workforce.
And as we all know, Mississippi’s public schools — the foundation for how we educate our workforce — need all the help they can get.
Education in Mississippi is a mess, and fixing the problems does require more than simply raising teacher salaries. While paying our teaching professionals well for what they do is important, from a business perspective the curriculum that is being taught is the critical problem.
For far too long students have languished in classes lacking relevancy and which fail to prepare them for the workplace. Changing this situation is of utmost importance if we want our children to be able to compete in a dynamic, ever-changing global economy. Nothing short of a revolution is required.
The most important factor in economic development is education. At its heart, economic development is raising per capita personal income. Here’s how Mississippi is doing, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce:
Year Amount Rank
1994 $15,793 50th
1995 $16,683 50th
1996 $17,471 50th
1997 $18,087 50th
1998 $18,998 50th
1999 $20,688 50th
Growing, but still dead last.
Our state’s economy has seen impressive growth in recent years, but opportunities have been wasted because too many Mississippians are being lost in a public education system that lets them down and lets Mississippi business down.
It is easy to talk about the problems plaguing Mississippi’s public schools. The greatest challenge for us as business and community leaders is doing something about those problems.
We hope that the Mississippi business community takes seriously its role in improving public education in the state, and together we can move Mississippi ahead.
It won’t be easy.