COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Education was at the forefront during a town hall meeting in Columbus Thursday night.
State lawmakers, educational leaders, and concerned residents all came out to discuss ways to strengthen and improve the educational system in the Magnolia State.
Firearms on school campuses, retaining teachers, and early childhood education were just a few of the many concerning topics that were discussed during the forum.
“We’re actually moving forward, probably in some peoples opinion at a snail’s pace, but our direction is up,” said District 39 State Representative Jeff Smith.
Smith was one of the lawmakers on the panel during the forum.
Smith credits accountability from educators and quality of education being provided by teachers as a few strengths in the state’s educational system.
However, while he admits the state is making positive strides, Smith also acknowledges there’s still more work to be done.
In particular, the state representative said he’d like to see the number of state tests get reduced.
In fact, when the new legislative session rolls around, Smith said there are plans to eliminate one of those tests.
“Well it’s a history exam that was set up many many years ago by a group that is really no longer in existence, said Smith. “It’s something that probably needs to be eliminated and there may be other tests but that’s one particular test, the History Achievement Test. We’ll probably do away with it.”
“We stand in a ready position, not a movement position in my perspective, and I’m waiting for us to get to that movement through education instead of just waiting and seeing what happens,” said District 38 State Representative Cheikh Taylor.
Taylor was also on the panel during the forum and has a background in education.
He belives giving teachers a pay raise could also help with improvements
“We got to get that up,” Taylor expressed. “We got to make sure the teachers are valued, appreciated, and that they actually are paid for the job that they do. Sometimes they’re counselors in the classroom, sometimes they’re nurses in the classroom, sometimes they’re educators, and even gun control came up so sometimes they’re protectors, so we have to make sure that they’re getting valued through there pay for the job that they do.”
Taylor said the state should also come up with creative ways to to fully fund education, adding it will take more than just the revenue that’ll be coming in from the lottery.
“We have to just look at the overall funding of it,” the District 38 Representative explained. “Right now the only amendment that was able to get into that lottery bill was anything above $80 million. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tough to get above that $80 million, so whether or not that was a good amendment it stands to be seen, but hopefully, and it’s my thought, it should’ve been included in a very genuine interest in the beginning and not an afterthought with one single amendment.”
Smith and Taylor both agree that teachers do in fact need and deserve pay raises.
Smith said when the upcoming session rolls around lawmakers have money already set aside to grant teachers those pay raises.