Monday, September 13, 2004


(Jackson, Miss.) -- Governor Haley Barbour announced final plans for a series of education initiatives today that will lead to a major education reform package which will be sent to the Legislature in January. It includes the creation of the "Governor's Teacher Advisory Council" which will meet Thursday in Jackson; "Ready to Learn: Early Childhood Education" conference to be held September 28 in Tupelo; "National Governors' Association Focus on Teachers Conference" forum to be held October 18-19 in Biloxi; and the "Mississippi Education Summit" to be held October 26-27 in Jackson.

"I've long said we need to broaden our thinking to make more headway in education in Mississippi," said Governor Haley Barbour. "That starts with listening to our teachers as well as learning from the experience of other states. These conferences will give us an opportunity to do that. Education discussions in Mississippi are usually just about how much money we appropriate for our schools. That's very important, but we need to begin looking at real structural reforms in our schools that focus on results."

The Governor's Teacher Advisory Council is an inclusive, bipartisan group of approximately 175 of Mississippi's 33,000 teachers. This consultative group of teachers will make recommendations to the Governor on how to improve education in Mississippi. The initial meeting will be held September 16 in Jackson with follow-up meetings conducted via emails, conference calls, and discussion boards on the Internet.

"Teachers are the most important element in enhancing student achievement," said Governor Barbour. "I want to hear from those on the front lines when shaping policies that facilitate classroom excellence.
I am committed to making educational improvement a top legislative priority for 2005."

The Governor and First Lady are calling on state leaders and policy experts from the field to discuss the future of early childhood education in Mississippi to ensure that every child is indeed ready to learn. The first of three education conferences to be held this fall begins on September 28, from 9:00am until 4:00pm at the Ramada Inn Convention Center in Tupelo. The event, titled "Ready to Learn: Early Childhood Education in Mississippi," features key-note speaker Dr. Craig Ramey, a leading researcher in early childhood development from Georgetown University. Other speakers will explore the extensive network of early childhood education already provided by Head Start agencies, private and public child care centers, parents, and federally-funded pre-kindergarten classes, and ways these services can be expanded and improved.

"Getting children ready to learn remains a top priority when it comes to early childhood care in our state," said First Lady Marsha Barbour.
"New research about early childhood development and its effects on learning potential are dramatically raising the stakes of providing early childhood education."

The second education conference - "National Governors' Association Focus on Teachers Conference" - is sponsored by the National Governors' Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Teaching Commission. The event is scheduled for October 18-19, 2004, at the Palace Casino & Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. Opening the event will be a roundtable discussion among a small group of governors - led by Governor Barbour - about the challenges and strategies for recruiting and retaining high quality teachers to rural schools.

"We will discuss the unique challenges states face as they try to provide the level of quality teaching that will lead to gains in student success and a narrowing of the achievement gap," said Governor Barbour.

These events will all lead to the largest gathering: the Mississippi Education Summit to be held October 26-27 in Jackson. The Summit is designed for Mississippi business leaders, legislators, teachers, administrators and other education stakeholders. Former Democratic Governor of North Carolina, and education reform advocate, Jim Hunt will give the keynote address, discussing education reform efforts across the country.

"Former Governor Hunt is nationally recognized as one of the leaders in education development," said Governor Barbour. "With strong leadership and a vision for success, he has set the standard in the South and across the U.S. for contemporary education reforms."


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741