- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Feb. 19

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on innovative education methods in schools:

Two Northeast Mississippi school districts received state approval last week to begin using innovative education methods in the classroom, a true testament to this region’s commitment to providing the best form of public education available to students.



The Baldwyn and Booneville school districts will team up as a “District of Innovation” in order to share resources designed to maximize learning opportunities for students.

Legislation passed in 2015 allows districts to apply for District of Innovation status, which enables them to request exemptions from state regulations to achieve performance targets.

Baldwyn and Booneville will collaborate on the “Building Bridges” program, which will enable students to access specialized courses in both districts, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Emma Crawford Kent.

Baldwyn will provide students the opportunity to take career and technical courses and earn industry certification in industrial maintenance or furniture manufacturing.

Booneville will offer students the opportunity to take online Advanced Placement courses taught by Booneville High School teachers who have AP certifications.

Shared classes will be available to students starting in the fall of the 2017-18 school year.

Leaders from both districts believe the designation will allow students from both districts to be prepared for their futures.

The Booneville School District has continued to stand out among districts in the region and state.

The district was one of 14 in Mississippi to receive an “A” rating in the A through F accountability rankings released last year by the Mississippi Department of Education.

And now Booneville, along with Baldwyn, will join only a few districts across the state to be labeled as a District of Innovation.

Mississippi’s other Districts of Innovation include Corinth, Gulfport and Vicksburg-Warren, which earned the designation in 2016.

The Grenada School District’s application was also approved last week.

The Corinth School District led the way last year by becoming the first public school district in Northeast Mississippi to achieve the designation.

It’s plan, called “Forward First,” builds on the district’s eMerge initiative, which introduced the Cambridge International Program and partnered with Alcorn and Prentiss county schools in the creation of an Early Learning Collaborative for pre-kindergarten-aged children.

For Northeast Mississippi to have two of the state’s five District of Innovation designations solidifies our region’s commitment to public education.

Administrators and educators in this region who consistently think outside of the box to bring our students new and innovative education practices deserve enormous credit.

Their hard work and dedication to expand the education model is key to ensuring our students continue to succeed in life.

Online:

https://djournal.com

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Feb. 17

Sun Herald on hotel jobs at Port of Gulfport:

It is now clear to us that Port Director Jonathan Daniels was not telling a whopper when he said 425 jobs had been created at the Port of Gulfport.

Both the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Mississippi Development Authority agree 326 jobs at the Island View Casino Resort hotel, which sits on property leased from the port, can be counted toward the 1,300 jobs the port needs to create to meet its HUD obligation.

The port agreed to create at least that many jobs in exchange for a $567 million Community Development Block Grant, money the federal government originally wanted Mississippi to spend on housing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But those hotel jobs, while welcome, were not the jobs we envisioned when then-Gov. Haley Barbour announced the Port of the Future, touted as the largest economic-development project in the history of the state.

We realize much has changed since that pronouncement was made and the port director inherited a project Gov. Phil Bryant said in 2012 was in danger of losing the grant money.

The port project has been downsized since the days when officials said they expected to draw the superships that would soon be going through an enlarged Panama Canal.

And the job numbers have been all over the map since the project’s inception. We would like to know exactly what kind of jobs the port created. We don’t.

We hope in the future, when Daniels speaks about jobs, he goes into the kind of detail that will avoid misunderstandings.

He’s had some successes at the port. And we hope he has many more.

Online:

https://www.sunherald.com

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Feb. 20

The Greenwood Commonwealth on internet sales tax:

Mississippi’s revenue commissioner has given state lawmakers more reason to be cautious about counting on internet sales taxes to beef up the ailing state treasury.

Herb Frierson has acknowledged that his plan to require large e-commerce companies to collect and remit sales tax to Mississippi is contrary to a 25yearold U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“What we’re doing is probably unconstitutional, but we’ve got to do it to get another hearing” with the nation’s high court, Frierson told The Associated Press last week.

Translated, that means the state better not count on going to the bank anytime soon to draw on most of the millions of dollars of internet taxes that are presently not being collected.

What Frierson has proposed to do by regulatory fiat the Legislature could second with a law that has already passed the House. It doesn’t matter, though, whether the tax collection mandate comes from a state agency or the state Legislature. It still runs head on into a 1992 Supreme Court decision that said states could not force companies to collect sales tax on remote purchases unless the companies also have a physical presence in those same states.

There is a nationwide effort to get the Supreme Court to reconsider that decision, which is pinching the states financially and putting brickandmortar stores at a competitive disadvantage. Frierson said that by adopting the regulation he has proposed, it assures Mississippi will have a seat at the table as the states try to persuade the high court that e-commerce is no longer an infant industry meriting special protection.

This legal fight could take a while to resolve itself.

Thus, about the only extra revenue Mississippi can count on from internet sales is what Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has voluntarily agreed to collect and remit, starting this month. That’s estimated to run $15 to $30 million a year, a sizeable sum but probably only a half or a fourth of what’s potentially out there.

Until Mississippi has a better handle on how much revenue there is and whether it can clear the legal obstacles to get it, lawmakers would be foolish to act as if it were a guaranteed source of income.

For now, online sales taxes should be treated as a potential windfall to be used to close short-term budget gaps or cover onetime expenditures. It should not be counted on to fund any recurring expenses or long-term projects, such as road and bridge repairs, as the House proposes. To do so could put an entire program at risk with one adverse court decision.

Online:

https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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