Nancy Loome is on a mission to improve education in the state of Mississippi.
Loome, the executive director the Jackson-based Parents’ Campaign, is taking that mission on the road as she will visit 10 communities across the state, making her first stop in Starkville on Thursday.
Loome said she wants to encourage parents and citizens to get involved in the legislative process to ensure that every child has access to an excellent public education.
The Parents’ Campaign was started by Loome, who was a stay-at-home mother from Clinton, in 2004 when she heard of a debate about the Legislature following the law and fully funding education.
She thought the basis for the argument was absurd, so she began doing research and found that state legislators were not adequately supporting public education as they had promised, she said. Shortly after conducting her research, Loome began calling legislators and encouraged friends and community members to do the same.
Two years later, her efforts resulted in what is now the Parents’ Campaign, which is a non-profit, grass-roots network of more than
60,000 parents and community members who are committed to ensuring quality public education for all the children of Mississippi.Since its founding, the Parents’ Campaign has established its top three priorities as standards and accountability, early childhood education and funding resources for public education.
During her presentation, “How Low Can We Go?”, Thursday night at the Greensboro Center, Loome spoke about the recent history of education funding.
“In 2008, we made some really important advancements in public education that began to show up in test scores,” she said. “At the same time, legislation fully funded Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), which enabled schools to implement programs that worked to move students, on both ends of the spectrum, forward. But since 2008, we’ve been steadily going backward in funding,” Loome explained. “We are now at the point were MAEP is underfunded by $243 million.”
Loome explained in her presentation that contrary to what most believe, 60 percent of the state budget does not go to public education, she said.
In reality, the government defines education to include K-12, community colleges and the university system. Kindergarten through 12th grade school funding makes up about 43 percent of the general fund.
The general fund makes up less than half of the state budget; therefore, K-12 education makes up about 24 percent of the state budget.
As a result of the budget deficit, schools all over the state are losing resources such as more than 2,000 educational personnel, school interventionists, music and art programs, gifted programs and advanced placement options.
Though the Starkville School District has been able to maintain the majority of those programs, Loome cautions that the worst of the budget crisis is not over. “The Starkville School District has really gone the extra mile to protect those programs, but there is going to be a limit to what they can fund,” Loome said.
The 2012 fiscal year is projected to be the worst financially in recent years as federal stimulus money will cease to be distributed, which accounted for $128 million last year.
“I’m very concerned about what is around the corner,” Loome said. “We’ve got to stop the cuts or we’re headed down a really bad path.”
The message behind the Parents’ Campaign — and what Loome hopes to share through her visits with communities — is that parents and community members have a much stronger voice than maybe they understand, she said.
“We need to step up and speak up and say to these legislators they need to do a better job of protecting our children,” Loome said. “Legislators promised to act in the best interest of their constituents when they asked for your vote, and we need to hold them to that.”
Thanks to the Parents’ Campaign, Loome has made getting involved a much simpler process.
“We simply send e-mails, give you information and hope you’ll make a phone call to our legislators... It really only takes a minute or two to make that phone call,” she explained. “We’re asking people to stand up and say this is our priority, and we mean it.”
For more information about the Parents’ Campaign, visit the website at http://www.msparentscampaign.org .