This Thursday, Hernando hosted the second of eight town hall hearings throughout Mississippi on Initiative 42.
I was speaker #19 out of 20, one of 18 people who spoke in support of the People’s Initiative. It was fantastic to see so much support for it, and I really hope you get to see videos of some of the other speakers that night. They were so good in so many different ways. But Robbie did actually pull out her phone and take a video. 42 For Better Schools has sent me their version as well. I was supposed to only speak for 3 minutes, but I spoke for 4, and didn’t even see the nice lady on the front row waving her red stop sign at me. I’ll blame it on being sick that evening.
Anyway, for anyone interested, here are my original notes and the videos of the brief speech. I hope they can be a blessing to someone.
Good evening. My name is James Comans. My wife Robbie and I are residents of Southaven. I’m a teacher here in Desoto County. I’m a product of Jackson Public Schools and the Mississippi School for Math and Science. I have degrees from both Mississippi State and Ole Miss. I am a Mississippian through and through. I went into teaching to make a difference in my home state- to make it my job to fix unemployment, poverty, and broken lives.
But I can no longer sugar coat it: We don’t have enough funding to do our jobs.
Mississippi spends less per student than all but 4 other states, despite having the most ground to cover. We’ve only fully funded education twice the last 18 years, and despite those two years giving us our two best years of returns, as a state we pretend that teachers should work magic with students instead of what has actually worked in the past.
I co-administrate a blog called Show and Tell Mississippi. We ask people inside our schools to share the truth about what’s actually happening with regard to funding. We’ve already heard stories of poisonous mold, leaky roofs, teachers digging through dumpsters for text books, educators literally making the choice between providing supplies for their students, or diapers for their own kids.
Is this really the Mississippi you want to live in?
I’ve never been as politically involved as I have been this year. Because Jackson has invited too many national players into our kids’ classrooms. Now is the time to shut it down. Now is the time to say no more. Now we can finally get our kids what they need to rise up from 50th. You see- the 42 supporters are not the politicians, the lobbyists, the out of state charter school businessmen. We’re your neighbors. Your church family. The people you see in the aisles at Kroger.
I know the teachers of Mississippi. They’re brilliant. Thousands upon thousands of them. We’re not in it for the money, obviously. We’re here because we love Mississippi to our core. And we know that we, can, do, this. And we want to. For Mississippi.
But we need the “adequate” funding promised to us by law.
We’ve had broken promises for 18 years since the legislature in Jackson, told US what we need in order to do our job, and then declined to give it to us. Year after year. Sure- We can continue hoping, that the politicians in Jackson will toss more table scraps down to us, while their big business buddies feast on the public dime.
Or, we can remind them who they work for. We can vote yes on 42, and WE, the everyday citizens of this Mississippi can show the world that no matter what outside agitators are trying to make a quick buck off our kids, THIS is going to be a state that puts public education first.