- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


June 24

The Oxford Eagle on education in the state:

While Mississippi still has struggles on the education front, recent statistics show teachers and students are making gains by using what they have.

All eyes are on Mississippi as its statewide graduation rate is rising and its dropout rate is at an all-time low.

The Mississippi Department of Education recently released rates for the 2015-2016 school year.

The graduation rate, except for one small dip in 2013-2014 has been on a significant rise. In 2011-2012 the statewide graduation rate was 73.7 percent. That has climbed to 80.8 this school year.

The dropout rate also did the same, but in the opposite direction and again with an exception in the 2013-2014 school year. Back in 2011-2012, the dropout rate was 16.7 percent and now it has declined to 11.8 percent.

At our local school districts, Lafayette County’s graduation rate was 85.6 percent and Oxford’s was 88.6. The dropout rate for Lafayette County was 7 percent and Oxford’s was 7.6 percent.

We are blessed to be toward the top of the pack in education. It’s the commitment of the community, educators and also students to stay in the game and make a path for a positive future.

Online: https://www.oxfordeagle.com/


June 25

The Clarion-Ledger on Mississippi’s university foundations:

The state cannot cover the costs to maintain, promote and develop its public universities alone. Additional funding for Mississippi’s higher education comes from a variety of revenue streams - including foundations that actively seek alumni donations to further their alma mater’s missions.

While we understand the need and benefits of these foundations, we find the cloak of secrecy surrounding their expenditures problematic. The millions that flow through these foundations have profound influence - both directly and indirectly - on education in the state whether that be through scholarships, strengthened academic programs, initiatives to benefit faculty, staff, and students and to promote partnerships that further expand the universities’ footprints in the region, country or around the globe.

Yet documentation of foundation expenditures is often kept from the public, shielded behind its nonprofit status.

That same documentation apparently is open to the state College Board, which called for an audit of credit card expenditures for Jackson State University’s development foundation. That resulting report found administrators made thousands of dollars in questionable, unapproved or undocumented purchases using the cards.

When asked why the College Board was involved in a nonprofit foundation, a private entity, Commissioner Glenn Boyce released a statement paraphrasing board policy, which says the College Board requires organizations that manage university funds or that are affiliated by name with the university to “properly manage, utilize and account for funds contributed to or for the benefit of the universities.”

So which is it? Are nonprofit foundations private entities with autonomy? Or are they public organizations that are subject to governmental oversight?

We would argue if the College Board is allowed oversight, then foundations’ expenditures should be a matter of public record to ensure transparency over funds being used to improve our public universities. The issues with JSU’s development foundation show there should be some rethinking of policy, as we are convinced other university foundations probably could use some sunshine on their practices.

But if the foundations are allowed to stick with their private entity argument, then we believe the College Board should relinquish oversight.

If asked today, we would prefer the cloaks of secrecy that have been wrapped around university foundations to be lifted. These organizations wield enormous power over shaping universities’ futures - or holding them back.

In the interest of transparency, monies used to help our universities should be accounted for and explained publicly. Oversight, as demonstrated by the College Board, can be useful. It just shouldn’t be so limited.

Online: https://www.clarionledger.com/


June 28

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on how the legislature is handling the budget:

Gov. Phil Bryant’s call for a special legislative session today to deal with 2016 budget year issues convenes as state agencies at many levels develop a clearer picture of how much, if any, funding has been cut from program budgets for the new year, beginning Friday.

The Daily Journal reported in its Monday edition how two area public libraries, Fulton and Tupelo, have already started making adjustments to deal with substantially less in state funds in the new fiscal year. Fulton and Tupelo are components in the same library system, Lee-Itawamba, but their separate budges must absorb the same percentage of state cuts.

According to House Bill 1645, nearly $11.2 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2017 is in the state general fund for the support and maintenance of the Mississippi Library Commission, but that amount is 7.8 percent less than the $12.049 million in the 2016 budget.

Bryant has limited his special session call to transferring money from the state’s $350 million rainy day fund to cover revenue shortfalls anticipated as the 2016 fiscal year ends. His request is unprecedented.

The FY2017 state budget calls for a $15,746 reduction in funding for the Lee County Library, a 13 percent reduction from state funds.

The Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library - part of the Lee Itawamba Library System - will see a reduction of $7,713 in funding.

The budget reductions mean fewer books, audiobooks, DVDs and other materials.

Tomlinson said he wishes he knew what was going on in the heads of the Legislature in making the 2017 budget.

Gov. Bryant, Lt. Gov. Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn all believe the 2016 situation can be resolved with the transfer.

The leadership of the Democratic minority, on the other hand, has called for a more extensive special session to deal with budget woes that will face the state starting with the July 1 budget, starting Friday. Numerous state agencies already have said they are facing shortfalls that will result in layoffs and a reduction in services. The Department of Mental Health is ending multiple programs, such as the chemical dependency units for adult males. The Department of Health plans to shut down a program that aims to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rates.

Democrats contend the multiple tax cuts passed in recent years, primarily for businesses, have led to the slowdown in state revenue collections.

We don’t expect this one-day session to end differences about the 2017 budget or tax policy.

It should be remembered that that the spirit of the rainy day fund is to help cover unexpected circumstances, not mistakes that could have been avoided with proper planning.

Online: https://djournal.com/

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