By Shelia Byrd

Associated Press— March 25, 2011

JACKSON, Miss. — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has urged lawmakers to make education a priority, saying too few of the nation’s young people are fit to serve their country in the military or by other ways.

The former Mississippi governor spoke to the state House and Senate on Thursday as part of Navy Week activities. During his speeches, he referenced a 2010 Department of Defense report that found 75 percent of America’s young people are ineligible to serve because they’re lacking intellectually, physically or they have a criminal record.

“We as a society are failing to prepare our children for adulthood,” Mabus said. “Having a criminal record is directly related to not having economic opportunities and not having an economic opportunity is related to education.”

Mabus said over 4,200 young people from Mississippi joined the Navy last year.

Some of Mabus’ comments drew applause in the Senate, where he told lamwakers “tight budgets cannot be an excuse or justification for poor education.”

Mississippi lawmakers are trying to finish work on the state’s spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. How much money to steer toward education — from K-12 to universities — is one of the issues that’s being debated.


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