The members of Mississippi First have spoken!  The MSF staff would like to thank everyone that completed the Member Interest Survey this past month.  The responses we’ve received from our members will be used to guide our policy work over the coming year.  We will also use the responses to provide you with additional information and advocacy opportunities based on your policy interests. Over the next week, members that have requested additional information for advocacy opportunities for one or more policy goals will receive an e-mail notification from the MSF staff.  We would like to remind our members that the survey was confidential but not anonymous, meaning that your name was linked to your responses but only MSF staff has access to them.

The following are the results of member support for our 2011 policy goals.

MSF Position – A state-funded pre-kindergarten program is essential to closing achievement gaps and to improving the likelihood of K-12 success for Mississippi children. Although securing funding for a statewide program may not be an immediate possibility, steps must be taken right now to expand access to pre-K, especially for children that need it the most.  Some Mississippi communities have been able to expand access to pre-K through local, state, and/or federal partnerships.  Over the next year, we will continue to study these collaborative programs to determine how they can be replicated statewide.

Charter Schools
MSF Position – Public charter schools should be a part of our state’s public education reform strategy.  High-quality charter schools would serve as an option for students in low-performing schools, as well as a source of innovation for the entire public system.  Successful charter schools are often the product of strong state policies that effectively address the authorization, evaluation, and accountability of schools.  Unfortunately, our new charter school law falls well short of being an effective reform tool. Therefore, we will spend the next year boosting public knowledge of charter schools, while also advocating for amendments that will improve the quality of our new law.

Comprehensive Sex Education
MSF Position – Through our new Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART) Initiative, MSF will work with public school districts to reduce teen pregnancy and STD rates.  Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been proven to be ineffective in reversing these troubling statistics.  Thus, we have created a model sex education policy for districts that includes options for comprehensive programs.  Each program we recommend has been scientifically proven to reduce teen pregnancy and STD rates. This fall, we will begin our advocacy efforts to encourage school districts to adopt and implement the model policy.

School Turnaround Initiative – High-Poverty/High-Performing Schools
MSF Position – Recognizing that there are pockets of success in public schools throughout the state, we will publish a report that will profile high-performing public schools in high-poverty communities.  By identifying the effective practices that make these schools successful, we will make policy recommendations that will enable these practices to be replicated in other public schools.

Along with responding to our current policy positions, members also shared many great ideas for new policy goals.  These ideas included several issues related to education, along with issues related to health care, economic development, and civic engagement. Although our 2011 policy goals have already been set, these ideas will be considered for the 2012 fiscal year.  In the meantime, the MSF staff will include information in future monthly updates about the most popular policy ideas.The following are the five most popular policy issues that MSF members would like us to include as future policy goals (ranked in order of popularity):
1. Obesity
2. School Leadership Reform
3. Strategies to Improve Teacher Quality
4. Counseling and Support Services for Students (tie)
5. School and District Consolidation (tie)

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