- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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April 4


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Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal says leaders should review a report on state testing:

For students, parents and teachers in Mississippi’s public school districts, the words “state testing” likely trigger a variety of responses from each group.



That spectrum is most definitely a broad one that would include comments ranging from the high frequency of testing to the notion that the subject matter being taught in the classroom shouldn’t be geared toward the test.

Regardless, the theme can be a contentious one throughout the state everywhere from classrooms to the dinner table to the state Capitol.

That’s why the results of a recently released report from Mississippi First, a nonprofit education advocacy group, regarding state tests deserves attention by all Mississippians.

The organization worked with four undisclosed school districts to examine the amount of time students spend on state and district mandated testing, what factors may increase the amount of time spent on testing and what teachers think about the topic, as reported by Mississippi Today. The districts range in demographics such as enrollment and accountability rating and were granted anonymity to ensure honest responses, according to the report.

Before diving into the results of the report, it’s important to understand some recent shifts that have been made regarding tests - another point of contention for some educators. Over the last three years, Mississippi has switched state tests three times, beginning with the Mississippi Curriculum Test and moving to the PARCC test in the 2014-15 school year. The state switched tests again in the 2015-16 school year and currently uses the Mississippi Assessment Program.

According to the report, in 2014-15, grades 3-8 spent the most time in state testing, with an average of 11 hours and 41 minutes, or 1.1 percent of the school year. Kindergarten through second grade averaged an hour and 30 minutes of testing time, and grades 9-11 spent 7 hours.

Several educators interviewed for the study said unplanned technical issues and the availability of technology played a role in how efficiently their districts could administer state tests, as reported by Mississippi Today.

Feedback on tests administered within school districts, which does vary greatly from state tests, determined that districts used testing products supplied by the same vendors, but that districts were using the products differently.

The report details a number of recommendations Mississippi First urges school districts, the Mississippi Department of Education and even the Mississippi Legislature follow.

Those range from district leaders hosting parent meetings about testing to elected officials avoiding “adding to the confusion with overblown rhetoric about testing” during legislative sessions.

The reality is that testing - whether done on the district or state level - can be overwhelming for all those involved.

We urge leaders across the board to review the Mississippi First report and recommendations to identify potential areas of improvement to help Mississippi’s students, parents and teachers.

Online: http://www.djournal.com

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April 3

The Greenwood Commonwealth says former felons have a case for voting rights:

Lawyers for six former Mississippi convicts will try to convince a federal court that the state’s laws preventing some felons from regaining the right to vote are unfair and disproportionately hurt black people.

The six plaintiffs have a reasonable argument, at least on the grounds that the list of crimes that keep some former convicts from voting are badly in need of an update.

Reporting on the class-action lawsuit filed last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Associated Press noted that the state constitution lists 10 crimes for which a conviction includes the loss of voting rights. Those convicted of the more severe crimes on the list, such as murder or rape, deserve to be denied the vote. Others convicted of less severe felony offenses, such as forgery, embezzlement or bigamy, may not.

A 2009 opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office added 12 more offenses that cost a convict his vote. Most of these additional crimes - such as armed robbery, carjacking, extortion and felony shoplifting - are related to theft, which is one of the constitution’s 10 disenfranchising crimes.

Any state has the right to declare that certain criminal acts disqualify a perpetrator from participating in an election. But what’s most interesting about Mississippi’s list of 22 disqualifying crimes is the things that are not on it.

Manslaughter and negligent homicide are the most obvious exclusions. Since the end result of any homicide is someone’s death, how is it that these crimes are considered less heinous, as far as their impact on voting rights, than some nonviolent offenses?

Felons whose crimes cost them the right to vote can regain it if two-thirds of legislators and the governor approve. But the felons have to ask, and lawmakers have to act. The AP reported that only 14 former convicts have completed this procedure in the past five years.

There’s a better way. A reasonable set of rules would prohibit anyone from voting while they are being held in a prison. Those on probation or parole for certain serious crimes could be denied the vote as well.

But in many cases, it is good policy to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentence and post-release requirements. The AP says 40 states allow uncomplicated restoration of voting rights once a felon completes the sentence for a disenfranchising crime. Mississippi should consider it, too.

There is no doubt that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have a tough task ahead. It’s not easy to get part of a constitution overturned. Their main argument should be that after offenders have paid their debt to society, it is wrong to keep punishing them.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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March 28

The Neshoba Democrat says Agricultural Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith can handle job as state senator:

Agricultural Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, Gov. Phil Bryant’s choice to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, is a bona fide Republican, the establishment leadership insists, while anti-establishment types say maybe so, but she’s no conservative.

A former Democrat - who may or may not have President Trump’s support - is going to need all the help she can get to cross the finish line in November in the current turbocharged political atmosphere.

To be sure, it’s vitally important Republicans keep that seat, and about the only sure-fire way is to rally around Hyde-Smith, although that doesn’t excuse how Republicans got into the quandary they’re in.

At the formal announcement in her hometown of Brookhaven last week, Bryant praised Hyde-Smith’s “intellect, compassion, toughness and determination to get things done.”

No, doubt, she can handle the job.

But polling conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and leaked by the White House last week showed Hyde-Smith dead last against anti-establishment Republican Chris McDaniel and Democrat Mike Espy.

Bryant’s wild-card choice was a shocker as other more well-known candidates apparently bowed out, but the former cattle farmer is not unlike others in the GOP who have jumped the fence for greener pastures and who should be welcome.

Will party switching be a problem?

White House officials last week, according to the media outlet Politico, told Bryant that President Trump did not plan to campaign for or endorse Hyde-Smith if she were appointed, saying they were worried that the former Democrat would lose.

A Clarion-Ledger columnist opined last week that’s just all wrong, that Trump and Bryant are big buddies, suggesting Steve Bannon operatives who might favor McDaniel were still lingering in the White House and spreading bad information.

There’s no telling what President Trump will do, but we hope he endorses Hyde-Smith before he endorses McDaniel, which he did in 2014 in his run against Cochran.

“I hope voters in Mississippi cast their ballot for @senatormcdaniel. He is strong, he is smart & he wants things to change in Washington,” Trump Tweeted in 2014.

The GOP ought to welcome former Democrats who don’t feel at home in a party where socialists are in charge.

Still, Republicans are deeply concerned that McDaniel will use Hyde-Smith’s past party affiliation against her in the race.

But McDaniel is going to throw the kitchen sink at anybody and it’s probably why nobody like Tate Reeves or Delbert Hoseman wants to get bloodied running against him.

Yet, the future of our Republic hangs in the balance. Losing the Senate could put America on a path to utter destruction, so who we conservatives in Mississippi elect matters.

U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper is vouching for Bryant’s pick in a big way and it’s going to take others standing up.

“Cindy Hyde-Smith is an excellent choice to replace Sen. Thad Cochran in the United States Senate, and I congratulate Governor Phil Bryant on naming her,” he said. “She will win the November election in a strong fashion.”

We hope Rep. Harper is right.

But there is justifiably a lot of frustration. Republicans can’t continue to accept poor leadership and survive.

Liberal Democrats are not the answer, so let’s all do the Hyde-Smith lift and pull.

Online: http://neshobademocrat.com

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