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Mississippi IHL Commissioner Warns of Dangers To Education in The State

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Sep 2012 03:43pm | comments
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Mississippi's Higher Education Commissioner is issuing warnings about the direction of the state's education system. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports Dr. Hank Bounds says Mississippi schools and colleges need more support and 'bold' leadership to improve education.

A decade of declining state support is putting Mississippi's higher education system on a dangerous course according to IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds.

Bounds says Colleges and Universities used to get two-thirds of their funding from the state, that has since dropped to about one-third.

"Since the year 2000 the state budget has grown 37%. The revenue. our percentage has declined by 7%. If we got the same size portion today that we did in the year 2000, it would mean 153-million additional dollars," Bounds said.

Colleges have aggressively tried to streamline their operations, Bounds says, but have still had increase tuition rates to make up for the lack of state dollars.

That, he says, can keep many Mississippian's out of college, and also keeps the state from pay completive faculty salaries.

"There is no way that this doesn't impact quality over time. No way. You can't pay 20% less and expect that quality is going to remain the same over time. You have to take the long view of things. And I worry about not recognizing that we are absolutely in a crisis," Bounds said.

For Bounds, that crisis extends to Mississippi's K-12 education system.

"Students that enter Kindergarten that aren't Kindergarten ready are never coming to college," Bounds said.

Bounds, a former district and state superintendent, says Mississippi is not only failing to fully fund public schools but also falling short of targeting high need students, such as minorities and those in poverty.

"If African American Males performed at the same level as their white counterparts, our ranking in the country would sky rocket. But when you get an enormous portion of your population entering Kindergarten with the vocabulary of a two-year old, that is a steep hill to climb," Bounds said.

Bounds thinks climbing that hill requires dramatic and long term changes, such state-funded pre-K education and consolidating districts, in addition to more funding at all levels to drive big improvements in educational outcomes in Mississippi.

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