Mississippi Schools Chief Tells Districts to Prepare for Oil Impact

June 14, 2010 1 min read

From guest blogger Alyson Klein:

Alabama’s Joe Morton isn’t the only state chief looking ahead to the impact the BP oil spill may have on schools.

Tom Burnham, the state superintendent of education in Mississippi, told me that he has already met with local superintendents in the Gulf Coast area and told them to carefully document any of their actions in response to the spill.

Like Morton, Burnham is worried about a decline in state revenue, which could mean less funding for education. The oil hasn’t made it to Mississippi’s beaches yet, but it seems fewer folks are visiting the Magnolia State’s casinos, Burnham said. That means less state revenue, which means less funding for education in a state where K-12 spending is already strained.

But Burnham is also worried about the impact of the oil spill on student health. He said some of the schools in the Gulf Coast area are right on the water ... as in you can physically see the Gulf from the school building. He’s worried about how, for instance, children with asthma will be effected. He asked the superintendents to prepare for the possibility that they may need to relocate certain students, or even entire schools.

“This has the potential of having an impact equal to some of the many [hurricanes],” Burnham told me “It’s just a different kind of storm.”

And he’s not ruling out the idea of urging the state to take legal action if necessary reimbursements aren’t forthcoming, although he would have to work with the state school board and other state leaders to determine the best course of action.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.