BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The 47th annual Mississippi Reading Conference is working hard to include all children on the journey towards higher literacy.
Murray Collum, president-elect for the Mississippi Reading Association, understands the growing issues that Mississippi's school system faces.
"What I want out of this entire conference is for teachers to go back to the classroom on Dec. 4 and have a plan in place: to be ready to improve literacy in our state and to help close the achievement gap that is no longer a black or white issue," he said.
Collum said the state has a growing diversity that needs to be embraced by educators.
"We're trying to help literacy, teach diversity and differentiate instruction strategies for classrooms to reach all levels of learners," he explained.
He added that there are creative ways to approach the gap, but in the end, success has to be funded.
"We have to give money to education," he said. "We have to celebrate all districts. No matter what their success level is. If they are an A school district, give them money. If they're a D school district, give them money. Everybody deserves money because all students are the same."
State Sen. Brice Wiggins, a keynote speaker at the conference, agrees the gap needs to be closed. He said his district in Jackson County has the highest percentage of English language learners in the state.
"Should we be giving students the education resources that they deserve and that they need? Yes," Wiggins said. "I think the debate at the capitol is what the best way to do it is."
He said the EdBuild study that came out in last year's session, includes funding for ELL students, early education and special needs.
"What's truly, truly important are the children," he said. "That's the discussion that I think is beneficial...we should fully fund MAEP."
Wiggins said there was no bill last year as a result of the EdBuild recommendations, and he's not sure if there will be a bill in next year's session.