- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Dec. 30

The Vicksburg Post on flood preparations:

More than four years after the Mississippi River inundated the lower areas of Vicksburg and Warren County with a record flood, we once again find ourselves under the gun with another threat from the river.

And like they did in 2011, and in previous floods, our city, county and state officials are joining forces to ensure the loss of life and property are minimal.

Already, county and city officials have met twice to set an action plan in motion and to develop lines of communication to deal with the rumors that are always a part of disasters.

A meeting at Warren County’s Emergency Operations Center Monday was able to get all officials oriented to the plans of the county, state Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks agents and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, which will handle the flood fight that will work to protect and watch the levees and take action keep the river from trying to find a new course during the flood.

Tuesday, city officials met to discuss how they will deal with notifying residents in the low-lying Kings community and Ford Subdivision area off North Washington Street and to set policies to ensure city workers are ready for emergencies and police can keep residents and property secure.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. did the right thing by including Warren County Emergency Manager John Elfer in the city’s discussions and as a member of the city’s high water response committee, which includes county Supervisors William Banks and John Carlisle. Having Elfer and the supervisors on board establishes a strong, direct link between the city and the county to ensure proper communication between both governments.

Elfer is also the county’s point man for public information, and Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau director Bill Seratt will handle the same duty for the city, providing direct contacts people can call for updated information.

Like hurricanes on the coast, floods are a part of life for people who live along rivers, regardless if it’s the Mississippi or the Missouri River. And when floods threaten our lives and homes, we trust in our local, state and federal officials to do their jobs and protect us and give us correct information on what is happening.

It’s good to see our local officials are gearing up to meet that challenge.




Dec. 29

The McComb Enterprise-Journal on education funding:

Even though the proposed constitutional amendment designed to increase education funding was rejected in November, the vote was close enough on Initiative 42 that Mississippi lawmakers should have gotten the message: A large percentage of the public wants lawmakers to live up to their own formula when it comes to K-12 education.

Budget writers at the Capitol, however, don’t seem to have paid attention.

Recently they unveiled a proposed budget that once again leaves the funding for elementary and secondary schools some $200 million short of what the Mississippi Adequate Education?Program formula says they should be getting.

Republican legislative leaders, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, claim that’s as good as the state can do, considering their projection that economic growth will continue to be sluggish next year.

The proposed education budget actually is not even a status quo one. Although the Legislative Budget Committee’s outline continues MAEP at the same level, other sources of education funding outside of MAEP would be cut about $170 million, or about 3 percent.

Although many other state agencies are also being targeted for cuts in the budget plan, those other agencies did not have more than 200,000 signatures on petitions and more than 300,000 votes, all saying that the state was not making education a high enough priority.

The Legislative Budget Committee’s spending blueprint for the fiscal year that starts next July is only a starting point. It represents the view of 14 legislative leaders - highly influential ones at that. But there are going to be more than 150 lawmakers with their own opinions on the subject, including a number who publicly advocated during their recent elections for more money for MAEP. Although Republicans dominate the Legislature and its budget-writing process, some of its own members may buck the leadership on this issue.

As with last year, questions are going to be raised about why Mississippi is socking so much money into its rainy day fund when it can’t live up to its ongoing funding obligations. And if Reeves and Gunn try again to float their irresponsible tax-cutting proposals, watch some of the same groups that supported Initiative 42 go ballistic.




Dec. 17

The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus on the recently released Mississippi education report card:

The report card for Mississippi’s K-12 education came back today.

It was not good news, although education officials tried to cast the results in a light that would inspire students and parents to work harder rather than crush their spirits.

Looking at the numbers alone, it would be very easy to despair.

State-wide, four in 10 students in grades 3 through 8 had either a “minimal” or “partial” understanding in math and English language arts, the two critical subjects that are foundational to a good education.

In Columbus, particularly, and to varying degrees throughout the Golden Triangle, the results are far more disturbing.

In the Columbus Municipal School District, the majority of students in every grade and in every subject tested at either minimal or partial understanding. In eight-grade math, 46.9 percent CMSD students scored at the minimal understanding level. Another 34.9 percent rated at the “partial understanding level.” That means eight in 10 CMSD eighth-graders have a below-adequate grasp of math and English, according to the tests.

The scores are far worse than what we saw last year, but it is very much of an apples-to-oranges comparison.

No, our kids did not become dramatically dumber over the past year. What has changed is how the state is measuring success.

This year’s testing was the first under the PARCC system, testing designed for Common Core Standards. Beginning in 2010, local school districts began implementing their own curricula designed to ensure students would meet Common Core standards, which seeks to fundamentally change how our children are taught. To a degree, the poor test results should not be surprising. In many cases, students have had limited exposure to these more rigorous standards.

Although it has become something of a political pinata in recent years, when first proposed, Common Core was widely hailed as a real step forward in closing the K-12 achievement gap between American students and those of other countries whose K-12 education is far superior.

While our colleges and universities remain the finest in the world, K-12 education in the U.S. had slipped to the point where colleges and universities were seeing more and more incoming students ill-prepared for college coursework.

That meant taking a hard look at K-12 education.

Common Core was conceived to transform how our children are taught — moving away from learning by rote (memorization) to learning the core concepts of the subjects. It requires students to think critically and develop a deeper, broader understanding of the concepts fundamental to the subjects.

As with all new approaches, Common Core — more accurately, the curricula used to achieve the standards — has been a work in progress. We see that in today’s PARCC scores.

We’ve all heard the horror stories from parents who are just as mystified by this new approach as their children.

It is unsettling, certainly, when a parent can’t help his third-grader with math homework. But what Americans find confusing and pointless, parents and students in other countries have long found logical and effective.

Their success is not abstract; students in other countries are better at math, better at language, better in most subjects.

There will be some who see these scores as evidence that Common Core is a failure. In fact, the scores prove just the opposite. We can no longer kid ourselves.

If we are to restore our status as the best-educated country in the world, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and work harder.

To abandon Common Core is to concede defeat and delude ourselves into thinking everything is OK.

It is not. We have the proof of that today.



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