Whew! It's been less than a month since the Mississippi Legislature adjourned for 2018, and what a ride it was! Overall, the session saw lawmakers positively respond to the will of the people, as advocates like you asked them to protect school funding, reject privatization, and provide our schools with the resources they need to succeed. Although the session is over, our work to elect public education champions to the legislature is just getting started. What can we learn from the 2018 session? Here are our five takeaways...
1. Public education saw important wins.
It’s true. Outcry from public education supporters prompted lawmakers to defeat voucher expansion efforts spearheaded by privatization lobbyists. That means no additional public money will be funneled to private schools this year. A damaging funding formula re-write was also defeated, and lawmakers even secured greater education funding than schools received last year. Even before the session began, Mississippi Public Education PAC saw THREE endorsed special election candidates sworn in as new Mississippi legislators. That’s good news!
2. We can affect change when we work together.
This session, we saw unprecedented efforts from education supporters across many Mississippi counties and multiple advocacy groups who pulled together to speak with one voice. Grassroots efforts like #BlueForMSTeachers and the “Stand Up for Public Schools” Virtual Rally were instrumental in the defeat of flawed funding legislation as well as privatization expansion efforts. We raised our voices together, and lawmakers responded!
3. Relationships matter.
You spoke to your legislators. You called, texted, emailed, wrote letters, and visited them at the Capitol and in your local communities. You voiced support of your public schools and the policies that will help them thrive. Those conversations encouraged lawmakers to vote based on the wishes of their constituents rather than by party line or according to outside interest groups. The relationships you formed can continue to help elected officials learn about the real needs of our community schools.
4. There is no off-season.
We learned again during the 2018 session that transparency is not always a priority for the legislative leadership, and our legislators often work on some of the most impactful legislation behind closed doors. As we saw with this year's attempt to replace MAEP, sometimes the lion’s share of policy work and back-door lobbying occurs before the session even begins. And, of course, campaigning for re-election is a never-ending process for politicians. Though the session is over, our advocacy work cannot stop!
5. The time is now.
Yes, the 2018 session adjourned with great wins for public education. However, we cannot rest on the successes of the last session. As the 2019 election season draws closer, the time is ripe to create even more positive change in the Mississippi Legislature. This fall, potential candidates and incumbents will likely begin announcing their 2019 intentions, and MSPEPAC is gearing up to support those who will have the courage to champion our public schools with their voices and their votes. We cannot do this work without your help!