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MBJ Editorial: Education remains atop state’s business wish list

Nearly eight out of 10 Mississippi business leaders (79 percent) believe our state can experience the same type of economic success as other high-growth Southern states.

That is according to a report on the results gathered during in the Mississippi Economic Council’s Blueprint Mississippi Road Show.

More than 2,000 took part in the electronic voting process, and an additional 1,000 participated in an online survey.

Of those, 69 percent see Mississippi as moderately or very competitive in creating jobs.

Education and workforce training were listed as top needs in all regions.

We suspect if that survey had been taken 30 or 40 years ago, education and workforce training would have been at the top of the list.

Mississippi’s education and workforce training have long been a source of contention in the business community. It is a fact that many industries have declined the opportunity to locate in Mississippi because of poor educational opportunities and the lack of a properly trained and educated workforce.

In a cover story in Atlantic Magazine, education was front and center.

Nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan.

When the results are broken down to the state level, unfortunately for Mississippi, the truth is not kind.

If state were treated as its own country, not a single one makes the top 15. The best performer is Massachusetts at No. 17. Minnesota was in the upper-middle tier as were Vermont, New Jersey and Washington.

Mississippi?

Our students — by this measure at least — might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia.

Every year, a better education for our youth is listed as our top need, but nothing changes.

In fact, Mississippi just cut spending at every level of education from kindergarten to graduate school.

We have to be willing to change and overhaul, right now. Until there is a total transformation without regard to political consequences, we are going to be mired in the same education environment for the foreseeable future.

However, we have too many legislators sticking to a nationwide political model that forces them to one side or the other without any room for debate.

Yet there is no debating that without an overhaul, Mississippi will continue to be compared to Thailand, where the large-scale sex industry flourishes and education is on the back burner.

>> For a complete look at the MEC Blueprint, see Ted Carter’s story click here

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