Originally published by Associated Press.
By: Jeff Amy
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may have been a failure as a presidential candidate in 2016, but he’s still a success in Mississippi education policy.
Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education was a prime mover behind a bill that Mississippi lawmakers passed almost unanimously earlier this year to pay public schools to turn out more career and technical students with industry certifications.
The idea is for schools to be more responsive to the training needs of business and industry. A report released this month by the foundation and Burning Glass Technologies finds that Mississippi’s career training efforts are in “low alignment” with the kinds of certifications that employers actually ask for when they’re hiring people.
For example, Mississippi high schools turn out 500 high school students who have earned a particular automotive repair certification, while the report estimates that the job market is demanding more than 1,600 a year.
Senate Bill 2447 was sponsored by outgoing Sen. Gray Tollison, the Oxford Republican who has chaired the Senate Education Committee for eight years and has often been receptive to the foundation’s proposals. It aroused little opposition, passing the Senate 51-0 and the House 111-2.
Nathan Hoffman, who spearheads the foundation’s Mississippi efforts, said the money will steer schools toward offering the right courses, and give them enough funding to provide quality offerings.
“The incentive plan has allowed school district to focus on quality rather than just the quantity of industry certifications,” he said.