- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Oct. 20

The McComb Enterprise-Journal on the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents:

A year ago, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents was on the case of state lawmakers, in particular those in the Republican majority, over education funding.

The association of state school leaders had endorsed an initiative that would have forced the Legislature to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula used to allocate state money to public schools. MAEP has only been fully funded twice since its 1997 implementation.

The association’s stance put it on the opposite side of GOP leaders, who opposed Initiative 42. It got worse in the months leading up to the voting, when supporters of the initiative, including school superintendents, accused the GOP leadership of a disinformation and fear campaign by claiming that if Initiative 42 passed, everyone else who receives state funding should prepare for an 8 percent cut in appropriations.

Since the defeat of Initiative 42, however, the superintendents’ group has gotten more timid. During the 2016 legislative session, it made no mention of MAEP funding directly in its agenda. Then last week, the association endorsed the just-announced effort by the GOP leadership to rewrite the MAEP formula, agreeing with Republican lawmakers that the current setup does not work like it should.

That’s an interesting concession, given that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn say a major problem with MAEP is that it has fueled a bloat in administration at the expense of classroom resources - a shift that presumably has been caused at least partially by the decisions or recommendations of school superintendents themselves.

What’s caused such a change in tone by the superintendents’ group? Money, most likely.

To punish the superintendents’ association for its activity during the Initiative 42 fight, lawmakers this year enacted a prohibition on school districts from sending public money to the association. That’s a huge financial blow to the group, as more than half of its budget reportedly came from school districts footing the tab for annual dues and conference fees.

Using the power of the purse strings is nothing new in punishing or intimidating legislative adversaries, longstanding or temporary. Lawmakers in the majority - whatever their party - have used it forever because it appears to work so well. The school superintendents have provided the latest evidence.

Online: https://www.enterprise-journal.com/


Oct. 21

The Commercial Dispatch on recent choices by the Mississippi University for Women:

Often when a name goes up on a building, it honors a politician or benefactor.

While we take issue with naming buildings for politicians still in office, certainly there is nothing wrong with honoring the generosity of benefactors and politicians, who served with distinction.

But not all buildings are named in honor of the rich and/or powerful.

Recently, Mississippi University for Women announced it will name two of its buildings for people who don’t fit that description.

Alma Turner did not amass great wealth and Eugenia Summer did not acquire political power.

Yet there is something especially gratifying that these two should be chosen for this distinct honor.

Turner’s name will adorn the former Demonstration School building, where she served as a teacher and principal for 18 years. Summer’s name will be enshrined on The W’s Art and Design building, where she served as a driving force in the university’s arts programs for 40 years.

These distinctions were not given them simply based on tenure. Rather, it is what each woman - both MUW alumnae - contributed over that long span that elevates them to a place of honor.

Turner is now 70 and recently retired after working at Mississippi State University’s Early Childhood Education Center. She left the Dem School, as it came to be known, in 1995. The school closed in 2005.

Summer, who died in April at age 92, retired from The W in 1987.

That both educators would be chosen for these honors strongly suggests that their impact has endured long after they left campus.

Turner said she always felt a thrill each morning as she headed off to the Dem School. That enthusiasm, that passion, proved contagious. During her time at the school, she helped create an environment for a love of learning that encouraged students and engaged parents. Those qualities helped make the Dem School a model elementary school.

The school’s alumni hold an enduring affection one rarely associates with an elementary school.

There can be little doubt that Turner’s loving devotion to her students, parents, faculty and school helped create that wonderful learning environment.

Summer, meanwhile, was an institution in her own right.

Almost 30 years after she retired, she is still held in awe by those she taught - and taught with - during her 40 years in The W’s art department as a teacher and administrator.

Larry Feeney, who taught with Summer for 20 year at The W, remembers her as a remarkable force, someone who seemed up to any challenge. She was a gifted, diverse artist with a talent for teaching and relating to students. She was an able administrator as well. As Feeney observed, Summer was a person of ideas rather than opinions. Her impact on the university and the students whose lives she touched is hard to measure.

Teachers, even the best teachers, often perform their important work in the shadows. A politician or benefactor may be accustomed to the tributes of their communities. But those bouquets rarely come the teacher’s way.

And yet they labor on, they strive and succeed with little incentive outside their own passion for teaching and shaping young lives.

That is why we are especially pleased when buildings are named for such dedicated public servants.

Turner and Summer have earned this honor.

And we are pleased that MUW has acknowledged their contributions.

Well done.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com/index.asp


Oct. 25

The Greenwood Commonwealth on travel spending by the government:

There is always waste and excess in most aspects of government. The challenge is keeping it to a tolerable level.

Obviously, many of Mississippi’s state agencies have not been doing that when it comes to travel. In the past four years, travel expenses have grown by almost $9 million, or 17 percent - and that’s with gas prices at a historically low mark for about half of this time.

Some agencies have ballooned in their travel spending more than others. The state Department of Education is budgeting this year to spend twice what it did five years earlier? the Department of Health 83 percent more? universities 50 percent more.

There is surely some relatively painless belt-tightening that could be done here. Republican legislative leaders are right to press the biggest offenders to get this cost down.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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