Where you live matters in terms of educational, professional and socio-economic opportunities.
This was one of the main lessons of the study “Truthful Eyes: A Look at Mississippi Schools” commissioned by the Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office. Even in Lowndes County, the households of students attending the Columbus County municipal or public school district are statistically very different.
Pamela Shaw, a Vicksburg native and public policy analyst, presented the study results to a group of community leaders on Friday in the Brandon Central Services boardroom of CMSD. He collected data from several sources – the US Census Bureau, the Mississippi Department of Education, and the National Center for Educational Statistics, among others – to analyze 13 public school districts in six regions of the state.
Shaw said the study focused on counties, such as Lowndes, where there is one high performing school district (LCSD is rated A by MDE) and one underperforming (CMSD is rated D). Presenting the study to community leaders, she said, would spark a discussion about the causes of the disparities and what can be done to address them.
“It’s not our data,” Shaw said. “This is data (from other sources) that we put together to tell a story. … If you give the information to people, people will respond to it. We want to give you the information and let you decide what you want to do with it.
By the numbers
The “story” the numbers tell in County Lowndes indicate that poverty and race are key factors.
The CMSD student body is 92.7% black, compared to only 37.4% for the LCSD. The median household income for students in each district is $ 70,417 for LCSD and $ 34,821 for city schools. Almost double the parpercentage of CMSD families (45.2%) live below the poverty line compared to LCSDs (23.7%).
LCSD students outperform the CMSD in all subjects of the benchmark tests – reading, math and science. It also outperforms the city district in terms of graduation rate and college / career readiness metrics.
The mean ACT score for LCSD is 18.3 compared to 14.8 for CMSD.
Other household statistics stand out as possible contributors to the performance disparity, Shaw said. A higher percentage of CMSD parents achieved lower education levels in high school, high school or college compared to their county counterparts. However, 27.9 percent of parents in LCSD have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 16.2 percent in CMSD.
Almost two-thirds of parents in LCSD own their homes, compared to 28.4 percent of those in CMSD.
When it comes to the workforce, however, 82.1% of CMSD parents and almost 81.7% of LCSD parents are employed. Still, more than half of CMSD parents receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program, compared to just 24.9 percent in the county district.
“People (at CMSD) work and are still below the poverty line, and there are others who work above the poverty line but get SNAP,” Shaw said. “Working is not enough. ”
The study also notes that Lowndes County as a whole has lost 2.4% of its population since 2000 despite the much-vaunted regional industrial development efforts led by the Golden Triangle Development LINK that brought companies such as Steel Dynamics, Paccar and Airbus. Shaw asked the leaders how this effective approach to regional economic development could work better to “not leave behind its poorest communities.”
CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat, in her opening remarks, said it was also her hope of the presentation.
“Through these numbers, we have seen that there is a direct correlation between economic development and success in the public education sector,” she told the assembled leaders. “But we believe there is also a direct correlation between public education and the success of our local economy. Basically, we feed off of each other.
“There is a divide in County Lowndes, and it is imperative for us to discuss and unbox the reality. It is detrimental to the community, Mississippi and the nation as a whole not to understand why it is important to create pathways to living wages and home ownership for disenfranchised people ”, a- she added. “Just like you, I did not choose my race or my parents. Likewise, our children do not choose their race or choose to be born in poverty. If the effort to get out of poverty was easy, so why does it still plague our community and state generation after generation? ”
Sam Allison, Director of LCSD, also attended Friday’s presentation and agreed that education is a key tool in the fight against poverty.
“We have to be careful not to stereotype poverty,” he told The Dispatch. “We know there is a cycle of poverty. In the world of education, we try to find ways to give hope.
Reactions from other community leaders
LINK COO Macaulay Whitaker, who attended, said she hopes the information presented on Friday serves as a catalyst to connect people, especially those who live in cities, with real opportunities to move up the ranks of the city. wages.
Things like accelerated learning programs and targeted career paths in schools to public transportation to connect people with jobs and training are “all within our grasp here,” she said.
“We’ve never had a problem thinking big and thinking outside the box when it comes to economic development,” Whitaker told The Dispatch. “There is no reason why we cannot apply this same global and original thinking to disparities in wealth. … It is about creating ambitious opportunities where everyone has the opportunity to do more, to do more and to learn more.
Courtney Taylor, director of the Communiversity of East Mississippi Community College in Lowndes County – an industrial vocational training center – proposed at Friday’s meeting an “asset-based” approach, particularly in schools. By focusing on locally available jobs and educating students about “what they do at International Paper” and other industries in the region, it could spark more interest in students wishing to enter these fields.
“If we go out of here thinking there’s something wrong with the schools, we screwed up,” Taylor said.
Lowndes County District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who has served for more than three decades, has expressed disappointment at what he sees as a collective effort by local leaders to support the city’s schools . Without this, and without the buy-in from the district bosses, it will be difficult for CMSD’s performance to improve, he said.
“If we don’t break the cycle, we’ll be here 50 years from now, or someone will, talking about the same thing,” Brooks said. “By all standards of expectation, I should be digging a ditch somewhere. Fortunately, I grew up with parents who valued education, so they put it in (my) psyche. So it’s part of
Zack Plair is the editor of The Dispatch.