/Key education groups call Gov Reeves’ budget priorities hypocritical, ‘extremely disappointing’

Key education groups call Gov Reeves’ budget priorities hypocritical, ‘extremely disappointing’

Mississippi News for Nonprofits: As COVID-19 caseloads in teachers and students reached their highest level yet, and schools across Mississippi are forced to close their doors this week, Gov. Tate Reeves. Reeves’ first budget for fiscal year as governor was released Monday. He did not mention a salary rise, despite promising to increase teacher pay in his 2019 campaign. Reeves did recommend that schools not teaching in-person during the pandemic be cut off and that $3 million be set aside for a patriotic education fund to fight “revisionist history,” which is “poisoning generations.” While Reeves and legislative leaders were expected to offer teachers a $1,000 salary raise, those plans were halted by the anticipated drop in state revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Mississippi Department of Education in 2019, the average salary for public school teachers in Mississippi was $45,105. The National Center for Education Statistics also states that Mississippi’s average teacher salary is the lowest in the country. Mississippi Today reached Reeves’ press representative after the budget recommendation was made public. She stated in a statement that “we believe strongly that we are able to find the funds to manage teacher pay increases.” Reeves also recommended that funding be limited to schools that don’t offer in-person learning in the COVID-19 epidemic. Reeves stated that their budgets included funds for support services for in-person learning, such as food service and transport, so school districts offering traditional learning were at “a financial disadvantage.” The recommendation also suggested that funding be limited to school districts that are unable to offer essential classroom instruction. Carey Wright, the state superintendent of education, stated that districts were offered three options to operate this school year to enable them to respond to specific needs in their local communities. She also referred to the $200 million that the Legislature allocated to ensure that every student in the state has access and connectivity to enable them to learn remotely. Wright stated in a statement to Mississippi Today that “there is no substitute for a great teacher” and said that districts that offer distance learning in compliance with public health guidelines can’t afford to limit their resources. The long statement by the state’s teachers union criticized the hypocrisy of the governor was lengthy. The statement by the Mississippi Association of Educators stated that they were given clear guidance and standards for COVID reporting in the state. “Now that some district have chosen to keep buildings shut down because they don’t have the staff or resources to provide safe services for their students and families, governor has decided they cannot be trusted to do the best,” the statement from the Mississippi Association of Educators read. The group refers to the Greenville Public Schools District, which was operating virtually at the start of the semester, and only this month after the passing of a teacher, it announced that it would go back to virtual learning. “Following an epidemic, they have decided that virtual instruction will be resumed. The statement said that Governor Reeves threatened to withhold critical funding for districts who need it the most, despite being assured that no state agency would be involved in their COVID plan. Reeves also recommended spending $3 million to establish a Patriotic Education Fund. This fund would be used for teaching to combat what Reeves calls “indoctrination with far-left socialist teachings which emphasize America’s failures over the extraordinary achievements of this nation.” It is similar to the 1776 Commission, an executive Order by President Donald Trump that established a commission to “patriotic Education” in the United States. This was in response to The 1619 Project, which was launched in 2019 by the New York Times Magazine. It “aims to reframe America’s history by placing slavery’s consequences and the contributions made by black Americans at the center of our national narrative.” Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for Reeves said that the idea was original, though similar to Trump’s. Reeves suggested that the funds could be used to “additionally” to students’ education. However, Reeves stated in the budget recommendation that the program was necessary to “counter the dramatic shifts in education.” She added, “Field trips and after-school clubs, as well as the development of interesting lesson plans and other activities, could all be funded with these dollars. We hope teachers, administrators, and non-profits are imaginative in their ideas on how to make the most of this opportunity.” “It would provide a tremendous benefit for Mississippi’s youth in addition to their regular education.” Officials from the Mississippi Department of Education responded by pointing out that social studies standards (or grade-level learning goals) were created by Mississippi teachers and adopted in 2018 by the State Board of Education. The standards provide a balanced view of U.S. History, allowing students to consider multiple perspectives on a historical event or period. The department released a statement saying that students explored the resilience and pride of the American spirit through study in civics, democracy and major events that shaped our country. Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators called the governor’s budget proposal and statements to support the creation of a Patriotic Education Fund “extremely disappointed.” Riley stated that Mississippi educators are following the State Board of Education curriculum standards, which Governor Reeves appoints. “Such unfounded generalizations attacking the pedagogy, character of teachers across Mississippi are certainly not an encouraging place to start the upcoming (legislative session).” Reeves also recommended $3 million for math coaches across state; $2 million to train computer science teachers; and full funding for the School Recognition Program. This program financially rewards teachers who teach in A-rated schools or schools that improve their letter grades. December will see the 14-member Legislative Budget Committee make its budget recommendations.