SIGNS BILL TO "UPGRADE" PUBLIC EDUCATION
From: Office of the
Governor Filed 3/29/06 GCN
(Saltillo, Mississippi) Flanked by students, teachers and
administrators at Saltillo High School in Lee County, Governor Haley
Barbour on Tuesday signed into law major reforms that he proposed to
upgrade public education.
The bill Governor Barbour signed, Senate Bill 2602, contains a number of
reforms designed to enhance public education, which he stressed is "the
number one economic development issue and the number one quality of life
issue in our state."
Governor Barbour said 62 percent of the Mississippi budget goes for
education. "Thanks to a multi-year commitment our public school teachers
are making 30 percent more than five years ago. State spending on K-12
education is 7.2 percent, or $143 million, higher than last year. Per
student spending in our public schools is more than $7,000 this year, a
record amount," he said.
He also noted that after several years of declining spending, more funding
has been appropriated for universities and community colleges.
"Building a stronger education system has always been about more than
money. UpGrade is not about funding; it's about fundamentals. The bills I
am signing here today are integral pieces of a concept that has become a
reality," Governor Barbour said.
The proposals under the umbrella of the UpGrade Education reforms were
developed with strong support from Governor Barbour's 250 member Teachers
Among the reforms are these:
* Liberate successful schools from repetitive bureaucracy. Schools that
achieve Level 4 and 5 accreditation ratings will be freed from some of
the cumbersome oversight from Jackson. As a result, the State Department
of Education can better focus its resources on the lower performing
schools,where the attention is most needed.
* Home rule. Home rule gives all districts the operational freedom they
need to do what we all are working toward: higher student achievement.
With the passage of UpGrade, local educators now have the freedom,
authority, and explicit encouragement to think and act creatively to raise
* Focus on dropout prevention. Nearly 40 percent of Mississippi school
children drop out before they graduate. UpGrade creates a position within
the Department of Education whose responsibility it will be to
dramatically lower this number in the next three years.
* Prioritize teacher recruitment and retention. This includes
establishment of a teacher pay for performance program that rewards
schools that show the greatest increases in student test scores from year
to year, and establishment of a middle school mentor teacher corps that
would pay $1,000 to teachers who are willing to serve in positions to
strengthen policies on discipline.
* Redesign high schools. A recent national report suggested that 75
percent of high school dropouts did so with passing grades, shattering the
myth that they couldn't handle the academics. The facts are that students
become disengaged and are not challenged by the curriculum. UpGrade makes
significant changes by doing the following:
* Establishes a dual credit system. Beginning next school year,
if a student at, for
example, Saltillo High School wants to take a math or science
class needed for
graduation at Tupelo's Advanced Education Center (where Ole
Miss, MUW, and
Itawamba Community College offer courses) they can do so and
towards their college degree at the same time.
* Requires that Advance Placement (AP) courses be made available
* Creates the Mississippi Virtual Public School where students
can take courses for
credit that might not be offered in their own school. This
advantage of investments in public education by corporations to
expand the use
of technology, online education and distance learning so every
child can have
access to the best education.
"We must constantly pursue innovative, creative policies that help us
achieve greater increases in learning. UpGrade does that," Governor