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Education can solve many of state’s challenges
by Amanda Sexton Ferguson, Editor and Publisher
Jul 24, 2014 | 140 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The annual Kids Count report, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation measuring the well-being of children and families, once again ranked Mississippi dead last in the nation.

In its four key performance areas, Mississippi ranked 48th nationwide for health and education and 50th nationwide in economic well-being and community.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that Mississippi received the worst marks in the child poverty rate (35 percent) and children being raised in single parent households (49 percent), which, according to a spokesman of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is directly linked to the child poverty rate.

Mississippi did show a significant improvement of its teen birth rate, which has fallen 43 percent over the last 25 years, and the youth mortality rate has fallen 42 percent since 1990. Also, the percentage of children with both parents not having a high school diploma has dropped from 35 percent to 14 percent since 1990.

Many of the categories Mississippi lags behind are the same challenges facing the entire nation. The number of single parent households in the United States has tripled since 1960, according to an article in The Atlantic magazine. The article also stated that married mothers made three times the income of single mothers. According to the Census Bureau, 48 percent of single mother households in the United States have mothers who have never been married, up seven percent since 1970.

In addition, forty percent of Mississippi’s parents do not have secure employment. June’s unemployment rate was 8.7 percent in Mississippi as compared to 6.3 percent nationwide.

What can be done to improve the lives of Mississippi’s children and open the doors for a brighter future? It is all about education.

How did Mississippi slash the teen birth rate? The state invested time and resources to form the Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi initiative to reduce and prevent teenage pregnancy. The program is centered around a community-driven coalition of business, media, and educators to educate teens on sexual health.

If state leaders wish to slash the child poverty rate, a similar investment is required. That investment would also lower the state’s 32 percent drop-out rate and improve the reading and math proficiency – fully investing in education.

I can’t understand why so many taxpayers in Mississippi grouse about funding public education. Most of this state’s weakness are linked to education.

For example, the rise of single-parent households, especially never-married households, is directly linked to education, according to reports in the New York Times and Forbes magazine.

According to an article in Forbes, “Turn back the clock 30 years, and less than 20% of births occurred outside marriage. Today the rate is 41%. While that difference used to be attributed mostly to race, education seems to be the determining factor now: as recently as 1990, only 10% of the births to white women with some postsecondary education but no college degree were outside of marriage. Today it’s tripled to 30%. It’s even worse for women with a high school degree or less: the figure is 60% for them.”

The article went on to say … “research from the Brookings Institution found that it can be very difficult for children of single parents to rise up out of poverty: 58% children raised in the poorest third of income levels who lived with two parents rose up, while only 44% of children of single parents were able to.”

To improve the unemployment rate, Mississippi’s workforce needs to be trained to compete in the global marketplace. To draw industry to the state, provide a trained workforce in addition to great incentives. To put an end to the cycle of poverty, give Mississippi’s children the tools needed to seek high-paying jobs.

For Mississippi, education is the solution to a wide range of challenges. The real challenge is selling Mississippians on making a significant investment in education.

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