Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Greenwood Commonwealth on subsidizing a lab school:
Running laboratory elementary schools at Mississippi colleges and universities is a perfectly fine idea, particularly at institutions that have teacher education programs.
These lab schools can provide hands-on experience to college students who aspire to be classroom educators. They also can be testing grounds to develop best practices that can be shared with schools throughout the state.
What’s not so good, though, is when the Legislature underwrites some lab schools with state funding but not others. It raises the question of whether the appropriation is based on considerations other than merit.
That’s the issue raised by the Clarion Ledger’s reporting this week about $850,000 that lawmakers have funneled over the past four years to a preschool operated by the University of Mississippi.
The Willie Price Learning Lab serves about 72 preschoolers currently but expects to grow that number by 50 percent in the fall. An Ole Miss spokesman said the preschool has used the state appropriation in past years to achieve and maintain its national accreditation. For the coming year, the suggestion is the school may use the earmark to subsidize tuition (which has been running about $6,000 a year) to families of modest means who work at Ole Miss or live in the Oxford area.
The Jackson newspaper reports, however, that there are three other universities and one community college with preschools that have the same national accreditation as Willie Price Learning Lab, but these other four preschools haven’t received a cent of state help to achieve that designation or for anything else.
So why does the Ole Miss preschool get preferential treatment?
Probably because it has connections.
The Senate Education Committee Chairman, Gray Tollison, is from Oxford and an Ole Miss alum. A large number of lawmakers tend to have a soft spot for the state’s flagship university, as well.
If that’s what’s been going on, it isn’t right.
If the Legislature can afford to underwrite one college’s accredited lab school, it should underwrite all of them.
If it can’t afford all of them, it should either fund none, or only authorize as many as it can support.
The Commercial Dispatch on the anniversary of the 19th Amendment:
Today marks an important date in our history, one that is not only worthy of reflection but should also serve as a call to action.
It was on this date in 1919 that Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.
Now, 100 years later, it’s hard to imagine the reason why women were denied this essential role in fulfilling the promise of our founding fathers that the United States would be governed by the people.
The vote remains the one role that every adult American can play in our government. Through it, we choose our leaders who write our laws and enact our policies.
For all high-toned rhetoric, our nation has struggled to make good on that promise.
In every case where groups have been denied the right to vote, the struggle has been long, difficult, even bloody.
The first women’s suffrage meeting took place in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It took 71 years and multiple generations of women fighting for the right to vote before Congress finally enfranchised half the adult population of our nation.
The long struggle for the vote was not confined to women. In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution gave black men the right to vote... theoretically. In many places, particularly in the South, there were multiple efforts to suppress the black vote -- poll taxes, literacy tests and acts of intimidation -- essentially disenfranchising black males and females alike.
As a result of these black voter suppression tactics, the number of registered black voters in Mississippi fell from 52,705 to just 3,573. In 1964, the year before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, just 6.7 percent of eligible black adults in Mississippi were registered voters.
Today, the fight for this basic American right continues. As of last year, Mississippi had 1.8 million registered voters, but there are another 180,000 people (10 percent of the total number of registered voters) who have permanently lost their right to vote because of felony convictions. Mississippi is just one of four states that permanently denies the vote to those convicted of certain felonies, a list that includes offenses such as stealing lumber or receiving stolen property.
While there has been some talk in the Legislature about restoring rights to former felons under some circumstances, there has been no legislation passed to change things.
It took women 71 years to get the vote. It took Southern blacks 95 years to claim that right. For 180,000 Mississippians that wait continues.
When we think of those long struggles, it’s hard to imagine why so many Mississippians do not honor the heroic efforts by going to the polls. Voter turn-out in non-Presidential elections in Mississippi remains low. Last year, just 42.5 percent of Mississippians bothered to go to the polls, and even that number was hailed as an improvement over past years.
This year, Mississippians will be asked to go to the polls to elect county and state-wide officials, beginning with party primary elections in August and the general election in November.
If you are inclined to stay at home during these elections under the theory that “my vote doesn’t matter,” we ask that you consider generations of women, blacks and ex-felons who came before.
The vote mattered an awful lot to them, enough to sustain the effort to claim that right for decades.
Simply put, if you choose not to vote you dishonor their struggle and have failed in your basic duty as an American.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on Cochran’s legacy:
Mississippi lost a legendary statesman with the death of longtime former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
Cochran, who died Thursday morning in Oxford at the age of 81, served nearly 40 years in the U.S. Senate after being elected in 1978. When he stepped down because of health reasons last April, he was the 10th longest-serving senator in U.S. history. He also completed three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1978.
Tributes have come from around the country, remembering a man who was known for his quiet statesmanship, deep thinking, humility and collegiality.
“Thad Cochran was always a gentle giant in the United States Senate - always courteous, always diligent, always fair,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Nicknamed the “quiet persuader,” Cochran was known much more for his diligent work in committee rooms than for cable news appearances. It was in those rooms he would carefully listen to all sides of an issue, while helping craft bipartisan legislation he believed would benefit Mississippi and easily win passage on the Senate floor.
“He was one of the best people to work for and one of the worst people to campaign for because he didn’t want to talk about himself,” said Bennett Mize of Tupelo, who spent nearly 10 years on Cochran’s staff. (Mize currently serves on the Daily Journal’s editorial board.)
During his extended tenure in Congress, Cochran served as chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, as well as of the Senate Republican Conference and of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. His leadership and skill for working across the aisle helped shepherd complex appropriations and farm bills to pass by wide margins.
Cochran also was known for his ability to win earmarks for his home state, including the funding of numerous university research projects. In 2005, he spearheaded efforts to provide more than $87 billion in federal assistance to Mississippi and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
Cochran set a high example with his spirit of bipartisanship, his grace and his statesmanship. The legacy he leaves on Mississippi and on the country go much deeper than the legislation and appropriations that bear his mark. More importantly, his humble leadership casts a model for today’s politicians - and for all Americans.