State Faces Educational Challenges

Mississippi is in an educational crisis right now. That's what some state education leaders said. Those leaders also said Mississippi has a high percentage of students who cannot read at the end of third grade.

"We're having too many of our people fail before they're having an opportunity to succeed," said Community College Board President, Olon Ray. Ray added, that's an issue this state is going to attack. His board, along with the Institutions of Higher Learning and the state department of education are joining forces to improve education in Mississippi. "We need to ask the question about what we're going to do about children who fail before they get to school," Ray said. "We need to look at what happens with non-readers in this state, I know of nobody who has a specific plan for that. We need to mobilize as if we were at war and we are. We have an epidemic in this state of failure for our children."

I-H-L Commissioner, Thomas Layzell, agrees that the three groups need to form a stronger bond and create a seamless approach to education. "We do have good relationships with those 2 other entities and that's key to making any progress these challenges are too big for any one to take on ourselves," Layzell said. The IHL Commissioner also said higher education is a problem and that Mississippi needs to beef up its educational qualifications all around. "Our proportion of adults that have a baccalaureate degree or higher is lower than the national average. Our percent is around 19 percent and the national average is around 25 percent," said Layzell.

Both Layzell and Ray said the ongoing lawsuit over plans to expand USM Gulf Coast into a four year college program won't have any effect on the groups working together.