Education Key to State's Job Growth

In September, Mississippi's unemployment rate increased to 9.2 percent, and it's been one of only seven states that has lost payroll jobs over the last 12 months. This is interesting because, in a very real way, Mississippi represents a long-term experiment in Republican control of an economy--one that augers closely to Gov. Mitt Romney's economic plan--and it shows how weak job growth can really be with the wrong leadership in place.

Republicans have had a stranglehold on the governor's mansion for a decade, along with the Mississippi Senate, a majority of its congressional delegation and two GOP senators. More recently, it won the state House as well.

Net result? Unemployment is up. Education funding continues to be a struggle. The Mississippi Parents' Campaign (msparentscampaign.org) points to the Beacon Hill Institute's 10th annual State Competitiveness Report, which "cites Mississippi as an example of a 'highly uncompetitive state' due to our failure to produce a well-educated workforce."

With 10 years of straight Republican control in the Mississippi's governor's mansion, we've also seen a decade of underfunding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The result is a state that's another decade behind the workforce of the future--high technology and green technology jobs that literally have openings they can't fill in the private sector.

On the Jobs page of Gov. Romney's website, he actually offers no specific proposals on education--his "jobs" plan says that he'll increase access to good schools for American families on its "One Pager," but his "Full Plan" never mentions the word education, focusing instead almost exclusively on reforming the tax code. (Increasing "access" and "school choice" are the brunt of his education proposals on his "Education" page, with very few specifics aside from sending block grants to states.)

In the 21st century, education equals job opportunity. There are no two ways about it. Mississippi should be spending its last dollar not on tax incentives for large corporations, but for educating and re-training workers to deal with the new economy. Mississippi desperately needs pre-K programs, but can't adequately fund K-12 programs as it is. Romney's plan of turning more of these decisions over to the states are particularly disconcerting when your state is underperforming the way Mississippi is.

For voters still on the fence in the national presidential race, it's worth asking yourself if Gov. Romney's national policies on education and jobs creation--to make the country's plan look more like Mississippi's--will truly accelerate job creation and growth in the country.


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