JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday that he is talking to more outside groups about ways to improve Mississippi’s second-largest school district without having a state takeover and without spending additional tax money.
The state Board of Education recommended in mid-September that Bryant declare a state of emergency in Jackson Public Schools because of academic and safety problems. The declaration is the final step before the state could take control of the 27,000-student district in the capital city.
Bryant said last week that he is talking to the nonprofit Kellogg Foundation about getting involved with Jackson schools.
After speaking Wednesday at a Mississippi Economic Council event, Bryant told reporters that he is also talking to a national group called Education Commission of the States, and a Mississippi-based group, the Barksdale Reading Institute, about ideas to improve the Jackson schools.
Jackson leaders, including Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, oppose a state takeover of the city’s schools, saying local residents should maintain control.
The Republican governor said he had spoken to state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright on Tuesday about finding a “third way” to help Jackson schools — not leaving local officials fully in charge but also not having the state take control. The state has taken over smaller school districts in the past, but Bryant has expressed reservations about the complexity of the state taking on a district as large as Jackson’s.
“I think we can raise a large amount of money, we can find the revenue needed to implement the plan and find out exactly what that needs to be and then how we need to go about funding that plan,” Bryant said Wednesday. “And rather than using taxpayers’ dollars, I think we can do so with a lot of organizations that have stepped up.”
Bryant said improving the public schools is important to Jackson’s future.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to see the revitalization of Jackson if we don’t have a good public school system,” Bryant said. “If we can’t get that done, you won’t see people moving here, you won’t see industry growing here, and that needs to happen. I think at some point, we’re going to have a revitalization of this capital city, and I want to be a part of that.”
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