Now is your chance to shape Mississippi public education

February 1, 2019

If you’ve ever felt an urgency to make sure every child in Mississippi receives a quality education, we are right there with you. Success in the classroom doesn’t depend only on the dedication of teachers, but also on the amount of funding that school districts receive.

What happens in the State Capitol has a huge effect in the classroom. It’s our state senators and representatives who make those critical funding decisions.

If you want to make sure that Mississippi public schools get the resources they need, there’s a path you may not have considered: becoming a legislator yourself.

You may have no idea what’s involved in a run for the Mississippi Legislature. That’s where everyone starts. There are experienced community groups standing by, ready to help pro-public education candidates get elected. They can prepare you for the March 1 qualifying deadline and even work on your campaign.

Why run for state legislature?

  • Help your local area with needed improvements
  • Help your local school district receive necessary funds and support
  • Sponsor legislation that will impact your local area and the state at large
  • Serve the public by collaborating with legislators and leaders from across Mississippi on education and other issues
  • Be the connection to Jackson your community needs to thrive

Considering a run?

  • Explore the office you are interested in and learn about the duties and responsibilities.
  • Check to make sure you meet the qualifications for the office and review the Candidate Qualifying Guide.
  • Discuss the idea with your close family and friends. Ask their honest input about your ability to serve in the office and to maintain any necessary personal responsibilities while you do so.
  • Consider the amount of time and money needed to run a successful campaign. Consult others who have run for local office for an idea of what is involved.
  • Reflect on ethical questions of serving in public office and file paperwork. Read more detail here.
  • You may apply for the NEA’s See Educators Run training to help you make the transition from educator to candidate.

If you’d like to support public education by running for the Mississippi legislature, email Kristen Dechert at kdechert@ourstochange.org and we’ll tell you how to get started!

A great time for educators to run

Until recently, there’s been something standing in the way of retired state employees, including public school educators, who want to run for the Mississippi Legislature: They couldn’t receive their retirement benefits while they served in office. For many, this was a financial non-starter.

Fortunately, a recent legal opinion by Attorney General Jim Hood has removed that obstacle, declaring that retired state employees serving as legislators should be able to receive the PERS benefits they earned during their careers.

“The law in the state of Mississippi right now, until a court says otherwise, is anybody that wants to run for public office that is a retiree of the state of Mississippi system can’t have their check cut off if they run for legislature and get elected, if they have a 90-day separation,” said Hood.

Skip to minute 13:00 to see Hood speak about the opinion

The board of the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System voted in favor of this change, with a goal to have the new rule in place when the new legislative term begins in January 2020.

Green light to run for the state legislature

Former educators now have the green light to run for the state Senate and House. Candidates have until March 1 to qualify for inclusion on the ballot this November. This exciting development could help more than 300,000 retired state employees, including educators, contribute their valuable expertise to making education policy.

The November 2018 election galvanized 1,455 educators to run in state legislative races. Many were motivated by low teacher pay, cuts to education budgets, and policy that did not reflect the realities of the classroom.

Educators know what kids need to thrive

One high profile candidate in 2018 was Jahana Hayes, a school administrator and previous Connecticut Teacher of the Year winner. She won her Congressional race, becoming the first black woman to become U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s Fifth District. Education was a core part of her platform; because of this, many called her a single-issue candidate.

“When you have kids in your classroom who can’t learn because they’re worrying about adult problems, because someone lost their job and now they have to move, or they have an allergy but can’t get an EpiPen because their parents can’t afford it, those scenarios are playing out in teachers’ minds, while other people just see numbers on a budget,” Hayes told USA Today during her campaign.

“Teachers have a front row seat to the future, and no one is asking us what we see and what we need,” she said.

Who better to advocate for Mississippi’s children, including full funding of their education, than those with decades of experience in schools?

Now is the time to get engaged — not just as a voter, but as a policymaker who decides on the funding and laws that affect more than 500,000 public school students in Mississippi.

Here are a few points to think about as you decide whether to run (sources: Mississippi State University Extension and Secretary of State):

If you’d like to support public education by running for the Mississippi legislature, email Kristen Dechert at kdechert@ourstochange.org and we’ll tell you how to get started!

Connect