- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 22

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on Medicaid expansion’s demise is a shame:

It’s a shame that we can’t take care of our own.

The Mississippi House turned its back on thousands of working poor people in a divisive vote against a bill that would have expanded the state’s Medicaid system, essentially once again turning down millions of dollars from the federal government.

Most Democrats voted for the expansion, most Republicans against it.

Gov. Phil Bryant and his Republican friends in the Legislature say the state cannot afford to expand the program. The state says about 644,000 people are on Medicaid and the House bill would have added 230,000 more.

As it stands if you make more than $5,500 a year, you aren’t eligible. In Mississippi, a full-time minimum wage job pays a little more than $15,000.

How can we not afford to take care of these Mississippians - even if it means an increase in taxes? It would be wonderful if we had higher-paying jobs that would lift these people out of poverty, but we don’t.

We remain one of the poorest states in the nation, a fact that is easily forgotten on the more-prosperous coast.

Every year, the state makes choices on how it will spend our money.

The needs are many. Some expenditures are essential.

Schools. Public safety. And public health.

We think everyone should be able to go to the doctor when they are ill or injured.

Medical care should be a right afforded to everyone in the state, but our state leaders continue to treat it as though it were a luxury, something that is nice . if you can afford it.

For the state’s lowest-wage workers, often the only way they can afford it is a trip to the emergency room, where they cannot be turned away regardless of their inability to pay.

And we all pay for that care, because the hospitals recoup it one way or another from those who can pay.

Emergency care is far more expensive than a trip to the doctor.

And the pile of unpaid bills is astounding. According to a recent survey of Mississippi hospitals by the Mississippi Hospital Association, about $2.5 billion worth of care is not paid for each year.

Our leaders need to make the tough decisions and make it a priority to find the money in the budget to pay our share of the cost, most of which will be paid with federal tax money.

Online:

https://www.sunherald.com

___

Feb. 21

Natchez (Miss.) Democrat on state misses on open meetings law:

Once again, the status quo outweighs common sense under the capitol dome in Jackson.

Despite what most lawmakers publicly may say, many privately dislike open government. They know what’s best for the rest of us; just ask them.

For many politicians and government workers, open government is what often gets them in trouble.

Those pesky journalists and concerned citizens who attend board meetings and demand to see copies of public records often cause great heartburn for those in power who like to slink around in the dark.

That’s why we hoped against hope that Senate Bill 2404 might be passed. The measure would have removed the exemption in Mississippi’s Open Meetings Act that allows publicly owned hospitals from holding meetings in private.

Natchez-Adams County has seen first-hand just how ugly the results of those secretive dealings can be.

The county-owned hospital is currently seeking permission to file for bankruptcy, the second time in less than five years.

The bill died last week after the Senate failed to take up the matter.

We have yet to hear a legitimate reason why public hospital boards should be entitled to operate out of public oversight, particularly when they’ve leaned on the public to support their debt obligations.

Change comes slowly to Mississippi. Let’s hope the Legislature corrects this gaping, illogical hole in state law next year.

Online:

https://www.natchezdemocrat.com

___

Feb. 24

The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on another change in school tests:

The Mississippi House last week overwhelmingly passed a bill to allow up to 10 school districts to replace the four tests students must pass to graduate with the ACT, which is used to assess a student’s readiness for college.

The idea may be worth exploring, although the enthusiasm for it seems a bit misplaced.

One of the chief proponents, the Madison County School District superintendent, said students care much more about their ACT results than they do their scores on the four required tests in algebra, English, biology and U.S. history.

That’s certainly true of students who plan to attend a university or community college. But there are a lot of kids in Mississippi who choose different career paths - starting a job at age 18 or entering the military, for example. The appeal of a college admissions test to this group is unlikely to be any greater than it is for the existing four tests.

Besides, why should schools cater to students in what kind of test they take? It’s not a popularity contest. The point of the four tests is to see whether students have learned enough in a variety of subjects to merit a high school diploma.

The current testing system may cause headaches for students who worry about passing them. But rest assured that those who have to retake one or more of the four tests before graduating are compelled to pay a little more attention to the subject matter.

The bill that passed the House by a whopping 118-1 vote does allow alternative graduation paths besides getting a high enough grade on the ACT. One of those paths is the existing four tests.

But it’s clear by the bipartisan House vote that lawmakers are in search of the next great solution to Mississippi’s education problems. That impulse seems to come along every decade or so.

The state, in fact, already is moving toward requiring all high school juniors to take the ACT, but only as part of a new system to rate the performance of high schools, not the knowledge of individual students.

If the ACT will do a better job of measuring a student’s readiness to graduate, then by all means use it.

However, it’s worth noting that the ACT is not designed for high school graduations; it’s a college entrance exam. There is a difference.

Online:

https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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