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Mississippi, complaining gets us nowhere

I once heard someone say that complaining gets you nowhere.
If you do not like something, then work to change it, complaining is not working. Placing blame is not working.
Advocating, pushing and researching are working for change.
One thing that draws a lot of complaints but little action is Mississippi’s public education system. Our results and scores show the failure of the system year after year.
Our 2011 graduates scored an average 18.7 composite on the ACT, placing us last in the nation and almost a full point behind 49th.
While we have bright spots in our system, like Madison and DeSoto Counties, as a whole our system is failing.
In the 2011 Accountability Report, the Mississippi Department of Education listed 70 of 152 districts on academic watch or lower. Thus, we cannot simply complain about the problem and hope someone else is forced to fix it.
We must work to fix it.
One solution to the problem is charter public schools, something that has proven to better public education systems in other states.
While this is not a fix-all, it is a necessary step in the right direction. A charter school is a publicly-funded school that operates like an independent school.
This means that school personnel, curriculum and day-to-day operations are determined by the school officials rather than by the MDE. Also, charter public schools are held to higher accountability standards in exchange for greater autonomy in control.
Charter public schools are the free market solution because they add competition to the equation.
Jurisdictions with poor public schools give parents no choice but to send their kids to a failing school. For many, independent schools are unaffordable, and home schooling is not always an option due to work.
However, charter schools allow parents to choose where to send their kids.
Once there is an alternative to the public school, there is pressure placed on the public school to perform better.
Essentially, competition between the traditional public schools and the charter public schools for state per pupil allocations will lead to better services provided by both parties.
We see this every day in the private sector with Company A and Company B competing with each other to provide the better goods to be consumed. Consumers do not want a good that is not the best available, so why do we settle for failing goods from our public school system?
While charter school legislation seems like common sense, the Mississippi Legislature just doesn’t get it.
The current legislation on charter schools, passed in the 2010 term, provides insurmountable obstacles to start and operate a charter school.
Even though creating charter schools are theoretically an option, we will not see this become a reality under the current legislation.
Now, as I stated, just complaining about the poor legislation will get us nowhere.
We can get somewhere by making sure that legislators receive and understand research supporting charter public schools, as well as pointing to successful charter schools in other states as a model, like those supported by KIPP, Knowledge is Power Program, which has received national acclaim for its work.
I realize many college students are not thinking about children at the moment, but imagine what type of education system you want your child going through one day.
The time to work for change is now, not when your child is in the system. By that time, it is too late.
Let’s make being a product of a Mississippi public education system something of which our children will be proud.

Trenton Winford is a sophomore public policy leadership major from Madison.