Mississippi school leader focuses on preschool, teacher help

State schools Superintendent Carey Wright focused her pitch to lawmakers Monday on more money for state-funded preschool and more ways to improve teaching and school leadership, barely glancing over the state's underfunded school formula.

Posted: Sep 17, 2018 4:39 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — State schools Superintendent Carey Wright focused her pitch to lawmakers Monday on more money for state-funded preschool and more ways to improve teaching and school leadership, barely glancing over the state's underfunded school formula.

Wright asked lawmakers to provide more money for public-private preschool networks, coaches to improve reading instruction, a new statewide computer data system and efforts to help superintendents and principals. Those various proposed increases would cost about $11.5 million. She said that improving test scores and graduation rates show lawmakers are getting a good return on previous spending and should keep investing.

"It's not just enough to ask for money," Wright said. "The taxpayers need to know their money is well-invested."

She only briefly mentioned the cost to fully-fund Mississippi's K-12 funding formula, which would require a projected additional $250 million on top of the $2.2 billion the state is spending this year. Wright is required by law to ask for full funding, but the state Supreme Court has ruled lawmakers aren't required to follow a law demanding they appropriate the full amount. Lawmakers considered scrapping the formula last year and replacing it with a different one that didn't have such a funding guarantee, but ultimately abandoned the effort. Lawmakers have said they're unlikely to revisit the issue in an election year, but could consider it again in the future.

More popular might be Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves call for a teacher pay increase, but it too was not discussed. Such a pay increase could cost more than $100 million when fully phased in, depending on the salary and benefit increases that lawmakers decide on.

Wright also defended her decision to abandon a $5.5 million federally-funded contract to create a new computer system to track special education plans for students. She said other states were experiencing similar problems making systems work that are designed by the same vendor. She said Mississippi hopes to use remaining money to find a workable solution, and said she doesn't now anticipate having to repay $840,000 in federal money with state dollars.

Leaders from Mississippi's public universities and community colleges didn't appear before lawmakers, as they cut down hearings to only one day. The state's 15 community colleges are asking for an additional $83 million, which would finance pay increases, technical programs and programs to aid high school dropouts and pay for other high school students to take community college classes. Mississippi's eight public universities are asking for an additional $127 million, including another $10 million for student financial aid and another $42 million to pay operating expenses at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 143879

Reported Deaths: 3676
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto952799
Hinds9520193
Harrison6801105
Jackson6043116
Rankin521996
Lee477094
Madison4595102
Forrest360685
Jones341687
Lauderdale3340142
Lafayette312047
Washington3043106
Lamar273849
Bolivar237583
Oktibbeha237460
Lowndes227562
Neshoba2170113
Panola210347
Marshall206547
Leflore200389
Pontotoc192527
Monroe188877
Sunflower188754
Lincoln183664
Warren171757
Tate163049
Pike159958
Union159025
Copiah158840
Yazoo149538
Scott149429
Coahoma146742
Itawamba144433
Simpson143153
Alcorn142724
Pearl River142067
Prentiss138426
Grenada135844
Adams134148
Leake131643
Holmes124261
George121523
Tippah120430
Covington116434
Winston115824
Wayne115522
Hancock113337
Marion109046
Attala106133
Tishomingo105542
Newton102829
Chickasaw102132
Tallahatchie94727
Clarke88153
Clay86226
Jasper80421
Walthall73728
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71213
Stone71014
Carroll70114
Lawrence69814
Noxubee68917
Smith68616
Yalobusha67626
Perry63925
Tunica59519
Greene58222
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis53817
Humphreys52318
Amite50714
Benton48217
Quitman4766
Webster41614
Kemper40615
Wilkinson38422
Jefferson33511
Franklin3155
Sharkey30617
Choctaw3057
Issaquena1094
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 232506

Reported Deaths: 3457
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson30318491
Mobile19260356
Tuscaloosa12446148
Madison12204146
Montgomery12000232
Shelby971276
Baldwin819984
Lee750464
Morgan610447
Calhoun5964113
Etowah585764
Marshall579453
Houston503338
DeKalb460835
Cullman409636
Limestone400844
St. Clair396055
Elmore391061
Lauderdale378353
Walker348096
Talladega334042
Colbert294341
Jackson290524
Blount275436
Autauga261739
Franklin243633
Coffee230315
Dale225454
Dallas219631
Russell21753
Chilton216137
Covington212333
Escambia194031
Tallapoosa168590
Chambers167548
Clarke154919
Pike154714
Marion133935
Winston122523
Lawrence121436
Geneva11678
Marengo116424
Barbour116010
Pickens114118
Bibb113617
Butler113341
Randolph99521
Cherokee98524
Hale91531
Washington89818
Clay88823
Henry8386
Fayette83116
Lowndes78529
Monroe76811
Cleburne74214
Crenshaw70030
Macon69420
Bullock68919
Conecuh66814
Perry6686
Wilcox62318
Lamar6227
Sumter55322
Choctaw41713
Greene39917
Coosa3064
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