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The majority of voters in 12 Southern states said they see differences in the quality of education across the South, and said states need to adjust funding to improve outcomes in these states, according to the results of a newly-released poll.
The poll, which was released along with the new report, “Accelerating the Pace: The Future of Education in the American South,” was published by a group of education nonprofits from seven Southern states. The poll asked voters about their awareness of the quality of education, their thoughts on school funding, and feelings about who should take action to reduce inequality.
Seventy-four percent of voters in the poll said there are differences in the quality of education across the South, and 85 percent of voters said states need to take action to remedy that. According to 84 percent of voters, the remedy should involve changing school funding formulas to close the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income communities. Although the majority of the voters polled supported state and local tax increases, even more voters said their state should “shift resources from other areas into education.” Improving K-12 schools and higher education was a top concern for voters, after the economy and jobs.
Mississippi’s poll numbers closely followed the average for all Southern states, with 74 percent of voters recognizing a difference in the quality of education in the state. Eighty-seven percent of Mississippi voters who were polled said the state should take action to reduce educational disparities, and 80 percent said that should happen through a change to the funding formula.
In January, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill to get rid of the state’s current school funding formula, but the Senate has yet to take it up.
The poll’s accompanying report pointed to several aspects of education that are leading to inequality across the South, including a lack of access to public pre-K that could prepare more students for school, out-of-date school finance systems, and a lack of adequate funding and resources, especially for high-poverty schools.