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Miles to Go: Mississippi Pre-K: Time to Begin. Southern Education Foundation. (2010).

Miles to Go: Mississippi Update: Improving Education and the Economy from the Start. Southern Education Foundation. (2009).

Miles to Go Report Series. Southern Education Foundation. (1999-2010).

2006 - The  report documents how the Mississippi economy declined in relation to the national economy in recent decades: Over most of the last 25 years, personal income has remained virtually flat when compared to the nation. In 1980, Mississippi’s per capita income was 69 percent of the national average. Today, it is approximately 72 percent of the national average today – a net gain of only 3 percentage points in 25 years. “In terms of current dollars, Mississippi’s economic gap means that on average each person in the state had $9,570 less in income than the average American,” the report finds.

Mississippi’s economic problems are rooted in the relative decline of its educational attainment since 1980. “In a world economy, a state can enlarge its income and quality of life only if it increases the high school and college education of its residents,” observed Steve Suitts, SEF program coordinator and the report’s author. ”Regrettably, Mississippi has been falling behind the nation in educational attainment primarily because too many students are not school-ready and never catch up, too many students drop out of high school, and, among those who finish high school, too few go onto college.”

Acknowledging that the state has made some improvements in educational achievement in recent years, the SEF report identifies four primary ways for the State of Mississippi to jump start and sustain educational and economic gains:

  • Start and rapidly expand state-supported, high-quality Pre-K to help ensure that children start school-ready and sustain their achievement over a generation;
  • Provide adequate education resources for the neediest students at all grades from Pre-K through college;
  • Strengthen middle and high schools, in order to decrease dropout rates and ensure that students are college- and work-ready;
  • Increase momentum in closing the education gaps by race and income.

“There are no quick fixes,” warned SEF President Lynn Huntley, “but these efforts will make the biggest difference over time in advancing Mississippi’s education and improving the state’s economy and quality of life.” 

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