By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper Messenger

Kemper County state Rep. Michael Ted Evans said he will be pushing legislation that would change state testing policies for Mississippi’s public schools during the 2019 session of the Mississippi Legislature.

Lawmakers return to Jackson Tuesday for the start of the session.

“Currently, teachers are spending most of their time teaching a test,” Evans said. “We want to change it where you have to score a 17 on the ACT to graduate. We want for the teachers to be able to teach the subject, not focusing all of their attention on state testing.”

Currently, students must pass a state test in Algebra I, Biology I, U.S. History and English II to be able to graduate from high school.

Evans and state Sen. Sampson Jackson II both predict that the 2019 would be relatively uneventful because this is an election year.

“Normally, we don’t do a lot on an election year,” Jackson said. “The top two items on my wish list would be to give teachers and state employees a pay raise, and to fund a new class for the state Highway Patrol. The money situation in the state government is improving.”

Evans was in agreement with the need for pay raises for state employees.

“I am for a pay raise for all state employees, teachers and others,” Evans said. “I think it has been nine years since some employees have received a raise.”

Jackson, who chairs the Corrections committee in the Senate, said he hopes some progress will be made in criminal justice reform.

It has been reported that Gov. Phil Bryant is pushing for expansion of Medicaid. Both Evans and Jackson expressed their support.

“Medicaid expansion is one of our biggest needs,” Jackson said.

“It should have been done seven years ago,” Evans said. “We have rural hospitals closing. Our state has lost S13 billion for healthcare in the past seven years because we did not expand Medicaid.

Jackson, a Democrat, will be seeking re-election this year. He has served in the Senate for 27 years, representing Kemper County and portions of Lauderdale, Noxubee and Winston Counties. He is the chairman of the Senate’s Corrections committee and vice-chairman of the Interstate and Federal Cooperation committee. He is also a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Business and Financial Institutions committee, the Energy Committee, the Judiciary, Division B committee, the Veterans and Military Affairs committee and the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committee.

“Sometimes you are running from one committee meeting to another,” Jackson said when asked about how he kept up with so many assignments.

Evans, a Democrat, is undecided about his political plans at this time. He is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, the Conservation and Water Resources committee, the Energy committee and the Public utilities committee.