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Big Names Have Big Ideas for Education

By Daniel Cherry | Published 12 Nov 2012 07:23pm | comments
Some high-profile national community leaders say Mississippi needs some new, big ideas to solve critical issues facing the state. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how their message focuses on improving education.
Mississippi lags behind most of the country in nearly every area of education, and some studies show, education is the way to improve the state's economy and quality of life. Jim Barksdale, a Jackson native, former Netscape CEO, and an education advocate, says some schools have shown income and geography have no bearing on potential.
"They've got their act together. They've got new leaders for their schools, and the schools are doing great and it's proving, all children can learn. Have good leadership in the schools, good teachers, more parental involvement, those are doable, practical things. Those aren't just pipe dreams."
Jackson-based Operation Shoestring focuses on transforming Mississippi communities. Executive Director, Robert Langford, thinks getting the whole community involved is key to fixing schools.
"Really empowering parents, making parents feel that that their schools and their school districts are theirs. And realizing that this is something that is indeed a marathon and not a sprint, and we need to start acting as if it's a marathon that we all want to run."
One major issue facing Mississippi in the coming year will be whether to allow charter schools. Walter Isaacson, one of Time Magazine's 2012 most influential people and Chairman of Teach for America thinks school choice, like that in his home of New Orleans, could be part of the answer.
"It makes each one of them try to do something better such as stay open later or providing a medical clinic at the school. I have seen when people have a little bit more choice and when there's a little bit more competition, people hustle a bit more to provide a better product."
Some leaders in the state legislature vow to make another attempt at charter school legislation in the upcoming session after the initial push failed earlier this year.




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