On a recent early morning, so close to Mississippi’s statewide election, I wrestled with a long, soulful prayer for our state. As I finished up, this huge black moth flew into the living room. It was such an odd contrast to my current situation, it struck me that this little guy was a messenger — a reflection of something I needed to pay attention to. So my friend Google and I had an exchange about moths, and I learned the following:
Moths abound in North America. In fact, you are much more likely to encounter a moth than a butterfly. While a butterfly seems more suited to the role of spiritual messenger, moths are easier to come by, especially just before dawn. A moth, like passion, strives to find light in any darkness. Moths also have a very short lifespan.
The lifespan of this election season will come to an end on Tuesday, November 5. As a parent of public school children, I know the results will not be fleeting. The future leaders of our state will have a profound and lasting impact on our children, our educators and the economic future of our state.
The past eight years of public education policy under the current leadership brought:
n continued underfunding of public schools
n a teacher shortage that is boiling to a crisis point
n constant changes to the high-stakes testing model that measures socioeconomic status more than it measures learning
n an increasing use of public dollars for private schools
If change does not come to pass, the weeks and days following the election will be filled with reinforced powerlessness as the current leadership regime emerges with more seniority, more power and the next plan aimed toward starving public education in Mississippi. This scenario would be devastating. Ninety percent of Mississippi’s children attend public schools. They deserve better, and the people entrusted with their care deserve better.
But, honestly, we are talking about more than public education. The erosion of public education in Mississippi will be the fuel that gives permission for the fire of “separate but equal” in our state. In a place like Mississippi, that is exponential fertilizer for poverty, racism, classism, oppression and a stale economy that benefits a chosen few. This is not the Mississippi I want to pass on to the next generation.
Sitting here now, though, that moth gives me hope. I am hopeful because I know that there are thousands of other moths out there who value public education and have a vision for a better Mississippi. If you are an educator, you are a moth. If you are a parent or grandparent of a child in public school, you are a moth. If you are a business person who wants to attract new industry to your town or city, you are a moth. If you are a person of color and want to see opportunities abound for all, you are a moth. If you find yourself identifying with these moths, Mississippi needs you! As you make decisions about your vote, learn about each candidate’s stance on public education. Do they support full funding of MAEP, the state’s public school funding formula? Do they support significant teacher pay raises? Do they support keeping public dollars in public schools? Go to the websites of resources like the Mississippi Public Education PAC and the Mississippi Association of Educators to see who they have endorsed. These organizations have done the hard work of identifying candidates on both sides of the aisle whose words and deeds align with the best interests of public education in our state.
Then, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, I invite every moth in Mississippi to move toward the light of your polling station and vote for candidates, regardless of party, who truly support public education. Our future and our children’s future depend on it.
Leslie Fye of Starkville has two public school children, is the 2019 Mississippi Parent of the Year and is a founding member of the Mississippi Public Education PAC.