Summary of recent Mississippi newspaper editorials


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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Jan. 13

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on gas tax:

Conventional wisdom is that lawmakers are loathe to raise taxes in an election year. This year, though, Mississippi's Legislature should defy conventional wisdom when it comes to the gasoline tax.

With prices at the pump at their lowest point in six years — and even longer than that after adjusting for inflation — the Legislature may never have a better time psychologically to do what it should have done years ago: Raise the gas tax to a level that can support the maintenance of the state's highways, roads and bridges.

Mississippi has not adjusted its excise tax on fuel — 18.4 cents per gallon — since 1987. If it were just to keep up with inflation, the tax should be around 38 cents per gallon by now.

An inflationary increase is the least the state should do. It could be argued that the hike should be even more than that, since higher fuel efficiencies mean fewer gallons of gas are being purchased by the average motorist than they were 28 years ago.

Motorists might gripe some about a 20-cent-per-gallon increase, but they will gripe a lot less with gas prices around $2 per gallon than when they are at more than $3, which was the case a year ago.

Gas prices won't stay this low forever. Eventually, supply and demand are going to adjust, and the price is going to start going back up.

But what's not going to change, regardless of the price of gas, is the crisis in deferred maintenance of this state's infrastructure. In 2013, the state Senate commissioned a task force to look at the situation.

It determined that the state is spending only about a third of what it should to maintain its road and bridge system. Nothing has been done to correct that imbalance.

The wear and tear are adding up. A federal study last year estimated that 21 percent of Mississippi's bridges are deficient or obsolete, while 8 percent of the roads are in poor condition. That means potential hazards for motorists, delays from detours and damage to vehicles. It doesn't take many potholes or bumpy surfaces to mess up a vehicle's front-end alignment or wear out its shocks or struts. That's a hidden cost that many motorists don't realize from an inadequate fuel tax.

Lawmakers need to think about this. If they raise the gas tax now when fuel prices are low, the kickback — even in an election year — will be muted. If they wait until fuel prices return to a more normal level, the resistance will be greater.


Jan. 14

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on Hank Bounds:

Hank Bounds, formally educated completely within Mississippi, has accepted the presidency of the University of Nebraska, whose systemwide enrollment is more than 50,000, and whose flagship Lincoln campus is iconic.

Bounds has been commissioner of higher education for eight universities in Mississippi since 2009.

Bounds served as state superintendent of education from 2005 to 2009 and before that was superintendent of the Pascagoula schools system.

Bounds has in his resume' many positive benchmarks in learning improvement at the district and statewide level.

He served as superintendent of the Pascagoula School District. He was principal of two high schools and a K-12 school. He holds both a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Administration and Secondary Education and a Master of Education in Educational Administration and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from the University of Mississippi.

One of the goals preceding him to Lincoln is intentionally growing at the main Lincoln campus as well as Omaha, the second largest campus.

A commentary in Forbes magazine in 2013 flagged several characteristics of strong educational leaders:

. They have consistent, high expectations and are very ambitious for the success of their pupils.

. They constantly demonstrate that disadvantage need not be a barrier to achievement.

. They focus relentlessly on improving teaching and learning with very effective professional development of all staff.

. They are expert at assessment and the tracking of pupil progress with appropriate support and intervention based upon a detailed knowledge of individual pupils.

. They are highly inclusive, having complete regard for the progress and personal development of every pupil.

.They develop individual students through promoting rich opportunities for learning both within and out of the classroom.

. They cultivate a range of partnerships particularly with parents, business and the community to support pupil learning and progress.

. They are robust and rigorous in terms of self-evaluation and data analysis with clear strategies for improvement.

Bounds has that kind of professional reputation, and those earmarks interestingly are definitions developed for British school leaders.

Some characteristics are universal.

Effective presidents also need to have a high level of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Often, the power of school leaders is vested in their capacity to persuade and influence, rather than to direct.

Bounds is a strong collaborator, and often that is winning half the battle in higher education.


Jan. 8

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on pandering politicians:

As members of the Mississippi Legislature settle in for an election-year session, we urge them to act responsibly when dealing with public education.

Our schools should not become casualties on the political battleground. Nor should Common Core.

As we and others have pointed out repeatedly, Common Core is simply a set of higher academic standards to help make Mississippi students more competitive.

It is decidedly not a curriculum, much less one being forced on the state by federal officials or bureaucrats.

Yet Common Core has become a matter of outrageous self-righteousness for some Magnolia State politicians who've never put together a lesson plan but who think they know more about education than the school superintendents and boards of education and teachers who actually operate our public schools.

If there are specific objections to Common Core standards, let them be raised in the education committees in the state House and Senate and dealt with as what they are — an academic issue, not a political one.

If there are specific concerns about a particular school district's curriculum, then those concerns should be raised with that district's superintendent and board, not with the Legislature. That is the essence of local control of our public schools. Neither Washington nor Jackson dictates the curriculum used in Mississippi classrooms from Byhalia to Biloxi or between Natchez and Tupelo.

The difference between standards and curriculum is so wide you could park a school bus in the gap.

To those legislators who appreciate that, we offer our encouragement and support to stand up to those who either don't know the distinction or who don't care as long as their opposition to Common Core attracts votes.


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