On Wednesday, President Bush's voucher plan dominated the discussion in Mr. Byrd's Government Class at Gulfport High School.
Mr. Bush wants students to take nationally standardized tests in math and reading each year to measure school performance. If schools don't improve in three years, parents would get public money to seek private tutoring for their children or transfer them to a better public school. Some Gulfport High students don't think it's such a good idea.
Jenna Terrell says she likes the President's plan in a way, but also feels it will separate people. She says kids that do well will go to one school, while kids who don't get good grades will go to another school.
Instead, the students believe the key to better schools, is raising teachers' salaries. Sean McCrary says the salaries are so low right now, a lot of people who want to be teachers don't get into the profession. Melissa Lesher says teachers need an incentive to actually to go into teaching, because a lot of teachers don't get paid enough and they just don't care.
Another popular idea, is cutting down the class size. Jody Green says it's easier to learn in classrooms with a smaller number of students, because the pupils can get more one-on-one help. Most students also want to see a better learning environment. Sean McCrary says many classrooms are old and ugly, and the books they use are often old and torn.
Jody Green says schools should offer more challenging classes. He says if classes are a little tougher, and students can get more hands-on work, they might have an incentive to learn more. Students say that drive to learn more, could help boost grades and morale in the classroom.
As for the unpopular ideas, the group says giving students better access to computers and the Internet, and lengthening the school day or year, will not do much to improve school performance.