New Report Confirms the Devastating Nature of COVID-19 on Underserved School Districts and Communities in Mississippi


August 29, 2023

Press Contact: Nik Sibley,


JACKSON, MS — Today, the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) released an extensive report analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on 12 public school districts in Mississippi. In the report, MCJ found that the enormous challenges of the pandemic compounded many pre-existing inequities in state funding that drastically worsened education outcomes, such as test scores and other indicators for students in rural, high-need districts.

“In studying the experiences of students and parents, it becomes evident how deeply these districts and others across Mississippi have been affected. From digital redlining to inadequate resources and staffing, their stories magnify the need for increased education funding to address the effects of the pandemic and the long-standing inequities that continue to plague too many districts in Mississippi,” said Kim L. Wiley, Education Policy Analyst & Project Coordinator at MCJ and author of the report. “Without long-term, targeted planning and financial investment to address broadband access, learning loss, and so much more, the opportunity gap for students in these communities will widen. Education is the great equalizer, and by failing to invest resources in future generations, we are impacting their ability to achieve in the classroom, post-secondary education, and the workforce.”

The COVID-19 Education & Impact Report investigates four key areas: Broadband Access, Learning Loss, COVID-19 Relief Funding, and Social-Emotional Impact. The analysis includes the following: 

    • Broadband Access: Having digital tools without adequate broadband access left many students unserved. 25.8% of Black rural south households are unable to subscribe to high-speed broadband. 76.2% of Black rural south households do not use broadband of at least 25Mbps. 
    • Staffing Resources: Students in Mississippi continued to lack the social-emotional support they desperately need. The student-to-counselor ratio in Mississippi is 398 to 1, almost 60% higher than the American School Counselor Association recommendation of 250 to 1. 
    • Learning Loss: The Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) reports a 46.8% proficiency in the state for math and 41.9% proficiency in English/language arts – however, districts in this study show proficiency levels at times less than half of the state average.  
    • Students with disabilities were among the hardest hit during the pandemic: Despite COVID-19 guidelines to meet Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements, many districts had difficulty meeting the needs of students with disabilities, leaving many of them and their parents with little to no support services.

“The pandemic was not the start of education inequities in Mississippi, but it added fuel to long-persistent problems within these school districts,” said Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “For far too long, Mississippi’s students, teachers, school administrators, and parents have been failed by inadequate funding. To do better by students and school districts, we must rise to the occasion and bridge this gap, or we risk the future of countless bright young minds and the future of our state.”

These findings make clear the need for a joint effort among educators, lawmakers, parents, and communities to ensure that the students most impacted by the pandemic receive the additional educational support and resources they need to move forward. 

“This report is critical toward any serious effort to address the alarming disparities in educational opportunity in Mississippi that have been exacerbated as a result of COVID-19,” said Raymond C. Pierce, the president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation. “The Southern Education Foundation is honored to support and have had a role in the development of this report.” 

The full report is available by clicking here


The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.