As lawmakers rush to develop a new funding formula for Mississippi public schools, one legislator is focused on changing how people view education in the state.
Mississippi's Republican leadership is moving swiftly to put a public education funding formula in place during this legislative session using recommendations submitted by the consulting firm EdBuild. The plan advocates funding based on the needs of students such as those who are gifted or have developmental challenges. Some legislators say the current formula, Mississippi Adequate Education Program, developed in 1997, is outdated. Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall chairs the finance committee.
"You didn't have computers in the classroom. You didn't have a lot of the technology that you have now that's used daily in the classroom setting. So it's an antiquated formula. There's no question about that," said Fillingane.
As lawmakers work to upgrade the formula, House Republican Donnie Bell of Fulton, wants to change how Mississippians view education. He chairs the workforce development committee. Bell says technology and computers are used in manufacturing, one of the industries he says needs specialized workers in the state. Bell would like funding used for a dual curriculum that teaches technical training and academics in K-12. He says Mississippi is 5th in the nation for the number of students who go to college but ranks 48th in college graduates.
"If you want to educate a workforce or you want to educate kids to go to college it's two different sets of skills. And until we change the curriculum at the K-12 level, we're not going to have success," said Bell.
Bell says carpenters, plumbers, and electricians working in factories are hard workers who earn a good living. He says not everyone has to go to college to have a successful career.