Dear Mrs. Clark,
I am a Mississippi native, a product of Mississippi public schools and universities, a Southaven resident and a public school teacher in DeSoto County. I strongly urge citizens across Mississippi to vote for Initiative 42 on November 3.
I went into teaching to make a difference in my home state. I believe education is fundamental to our success, and I see it as my job to not only inspire young people but to fix unemployment, poverty, and broken lives. There are thousands upon thousands of teachers in this state who greet the enormous expectations and unfunded mandates placed upon them by the Mississippi Legislature with pride, with enthusiasm, with unwavering optimism that despite our limitations, we can and will produce excellence.
I can no longer sugar coat it: we, the teachers of Mississippi, do not have enough funding to do our jobs.
Mississippi spends less per student than all but four other states, despite having the most ground to cover. We’ve only fully funded education twice the last 18 years, and despite those two years giving us some of our best returns, as a state we pretend that teachers can work magic with students instead of doing what has actually worked in the past.
I co-administrate a blog called Show and Tell Mississippi. We ask people inside our schools to share the truth about what’s actually happening with regard to funding. We’ve already heard stories of poisonous mold, leaky roofs, teachers digging through dumpsters for text books, and educators literally making the choice between providing supplies for their students, or diapers for their own kids.
Is this really the Mississippi you want to live in?
I’ve never been as politically involved as I have been this year, but Jackson has finally gone too far. Jackson has invited too many national players into our kids’ classrooms. Jackson has bullied teachers who dare to raise concerns. Jackson has threatened and coerced voters into believing that public schools cannot be fully funded without dire consequences. These offenses are undeniable, and this is one educator who will not be silenced.
Initiative 42 presents our citizens with a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity. Now is the time to say, “No more.” Now we can finally get our kids what they need to rise up from 50th. This is an opportunity to tell the politicians, the lobbyists and the out-of-state charter school profiteers, we do not accept your false claims and excuses for why we cannot fully fund public schools.
I know the teachers of Mississippi. They’re brilliant. We love Mississippi to our core. We know that we can provide the world class education that Mississippi needs to rise up. And we want to. For every Mississippi child.
But we need the adequate funding promised to us by law.
We’ve had broken promises for 18 years since the legislature in Jackson told us what we need in order to do our job, and then declined to give it to us. Year after year. Sure, we can continue hoping that Jackson will toss more table scraps down to us, while their big business buddies feast on the public dime.
Or, we can remind them who they work for. We can vote yes on 42, and we, the everyday citizens of Mississippi, can show the world that no matter which outside agitators are trying to make a quick buck off our kids, this is going to be a state that puts public education first.
Now is the time.
James Comans is an 8th grade science teacher at DeSoto Central
Middle School in Southaven, Mississippi.