- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Sept. 20

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on state’s education funding:

Mississippians on Wednesday received a powerful lesson about education funding adequacy and our state’s constitution, which does not specifically quantify responsibilities for public schools.

That is a weakness at the core of governance and works against real education adequacy, which in turn penalizes children because schools cannot offer all the knowledge advantages necessary in the 21st century.

The consequence falls directly on children whose opportunities for learning to help them keep up with the rest of the world are short-changed because adults in the Legislature and the governor’s office have wiggled around the language of existing law to more fully empower their own grasp of state revenues.

David Sciarra, executive director of the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, said Wednesday that is why it is essential for Mississippians to pass the citizen-sponsored Initiative 42 on the November ballot.

Sciarra said adding the language that the state shall have an “adequate and efficient” public education system will help ensure a system that is properly funded.

“You got to get 42 passed,” said Sciarra, who spoke Wednesday to the leadership academy of the Mississippi Education Reform Collaborative, a support group.

Constitutional deference to the Legislature, Sciarra said, has cost Mississippians dearly in the adequacy of public education funding.

Sciarra said the Legislature has mandated schools meet certain performance levels but is not providing the funds to help meet those levels.

Sciarra said passing Initiative 42 would put language in the Mississippi Constitution consistent with the language in other state constitutions, which would lead to additional funding.

Unfortunately, several powerful opponents disagree that Initiative 42 would work.

The Mississippi Republican Party’s State Central Committee voted to oppose Initiative 42.

“Initiative 42 . is a power grab, pure and simple” said Joe Nosef, chairman of the Mississippi GOP.

Nosef conveniently ignores the power grab within his party ranks, with the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House all opposed to fulfilling the existing law’s mandate and intent.

They also object to a provision placing the courts as an arbiter. A judge can be avoided by doing the right thing.

Mississippians can chart a better course in November by voting for Initiative 42. The point, after all, is not to enhance anyone’s power, but to fully enable public schools to reach worthy goals already known and set.




Sept. 23

The Commercial Dispatch, Columbus, Mississippi, on state funding for beaver control:

Each year, the state of Mississippi and as many as 70 of the state’s 82 counties provide funds for beaver control, money used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services uses to control the beaver population and destroy the dams they build.

Left to their own devices, beavers could have a crippling effect on the state’s timber industry and agriculture. Roads and highways could be flooded as a result of the beavers’ dam-building efforts.

They are seen, quite justifiably, as a nuisance anywhere people live and work.

Even so, there remains a grudging respect and admiration for the beaver.

As humorist James Thurber once noted, “One has but to observe a community of beavers at work in a stream to understand the loss in his sagacity, balance, cooperation, competence and purpose which Man has suffered since he rose up on his hind legs.”

Those who know beavers best, the USDA agents assigned to control the beaver population, find the beaver to be ingenious in the manner in which they construct their dams, the materials they use and their ability to use the natural flow of the river, creek or stream to create the habitat that best suits them.

As it is with most animals, beavers are not a nuisance until people start moving into their habitat.

Beavers simply have no respect for real estate values or commercial forestry and agriculture. So that’s a problem.

Even so, it would be foolish to dismiss the beaver as simply a nuisance. In many respects, the work they do is not simply an impressive feat of engineering, but of ecology as well.

The flooding that is the result of their dam-building creates wetlands and sustains an ecosystem that might otherwise disappear forever.

Every so often, man-made projects are challenged by concerns over the environment. We have all heard stories of how a project had to be stopped or altered in order to save a certain obscure species of fish or frog or other animal. We are sometimes tempted to scoff and blame environmentalists for obstructing progress.

But it should be noted that it’s not simply a matter of protecting some rare, seemingly insignificant species; it’s about saving an entire ecosystem in which that species plays a vital role.

Beavers are the first landscape architects. The work they do is important in preserving the natural world we are sometimes inclined to take for granted.

Studies even suggest that beavers play a role in combating climate change. A new study from Colorado State University geology professor Ellen Wohl finds that these beaver meadows store carbon, temporarily sequestering greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Wohl found that the abandoned beaver dams she studied made up around 8 percent of the carbon storage in the landscape, and that if beavers were still actively maintaining those dams, the number would be closer to 23 percent.

While beaver control is a necessity where people live, play and work, we shouldn’t ignore the important work they can do in preserving our natural ecosystems.




Sept. 23

The Oxford (Mississippi) Eagle on preparing for fall’s hazardous weather:

With cooler temperatures arriving and residents getting a break from the summer’s oppressive rays, it’s also time to remember severe weather could roll through.

The temperature changes cause shifts in the atmosphere that can create instability, and that makes us prone to tornadoes and other severe weather.

While the greater risk for tornadoes during the month of September is more in the Midwest and Oklahoma areas, according to the Weather Channel, the risk rises for us in Mississippi in November and December.

The National Highway Institute has those dangerous months in mind and has named September National Preparedness Month. By looking ahead and realizing the risk for severe weather, families can plan ahead and know what to do when emergencies strike.

Families can sit down now and talk about where everyone can gather if severe weather hits.

While they are at it, they can update their fire escape plan. This doesn’t take long. It can be during a commercial break while the football game is on. If a tornado struck and knocked out cellphone towers, do you know how you will let your family know you’re safe? Do you know where you will try to meet up with your family if nobody can be reached by phone? Those answers can be determined fairly quickly.

Also in September you can get supplies for your car and home to prepare you for severe weather.

If there’s anything you need like tarps and outdoor materials, now is the time to do it with some summer items going on sale to make way for Halloween, and yes, Christmas merchandise. Gather up food too, whether it is canned goods or grab some bread to put in the freezer for a rainy day. Because you know the second someone says hurricane or tornado, there will be a mad rush for milk, bread and canned food.

Last, but not least, consider getting a mechanic to check out your car. If there is a disaster and you need to evacuate, it will be nice to have the peace of mind that your tire treads are looking good, you have the appropriate amount of oil, coolants and more.

Think now so if a disaster does hit, you are not sidelined.



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