What would MLK say about education in Mississippi?

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that equality would be reached in America, and really throughout the entire world. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963 still  inspires the newest generation to aspire to a better country and world. Of course the ideals in the speech and the reality are still worlds apart in some cases, particularly when you look at the state of K-12 education in places like my home state of Mississippi.

It’s astonishing to me that the worst state in the nation when it comes to student achievement is basically left to wallow that way year after year. Many of the kids in Mississippi classrooms come from homes in poverty (24% of people in the state are estimated to live below the poverty line) and many of them are children of color — many of them are black children. It’s difficult to not have a cynical view of this situation. I wonder sometimes what sort of outcry might be experienced if the white children in top-performing Connecticut suddenly had a year with the type of statistics that Mississippi kids have annually. Would it be a headline for a day then forgotten until next year? Or would extensive reform efforts be launched immediately? I think we all know the answer to that question. There would be outrage. So where is the outrage for Mississippi K-12 students? Where are the people demanding a better education and way of life for these kids?

I didn’t live in MLK’s lifetime but I’d like to think that if he were still around today, he would agree with me on the injustices that Mississippi K-12 students are experiencing. I have a dream that this generation of Mississippi students will be the ones to break the cycle of poverty in their home state — but it starts with strong educational access.

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