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Mississippi editorial roundup

February 27, 2019

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Feb. 20

The Daily Leader on a teacher shortage:

Teacher shortages remain a problem in the state. Mississippi Today, a non-profit news organization, this week has been highlighting the enormity of the problem. The stories are sobering.

“In over 20 years, the problem has escalated, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education. The teacher shortage is actually six times worse than it was in 1997, shortly before the Legislature addressed the issue with the passage of the Critical Teacher Shortage Act,” Mississippi Today wrote.

Districts with the worst shortages are often those in poor areas, with a high percentage of black students. Many of them are in the Delta. ...

Low teacher pay is one of the issues, but it doesn’t tell the entire story of why some districts struggle to recruit teachers. Mississippi Today’s report cited few housing options and a lack of job opportunities for teachers’ spouses as problems, too.

But low pay is the biggest obstacle. “A report from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, showed Mississippi teachers earned less in 2016-17 than teachers in any other state — an average of $42,925 compared to a national average of just under $60,000. Starting teachers in Mississippi make between $34,000 and $39,000, depending on their education level,” Mississippi Today wrote.

Sure, cost of living is less in Mississippi. But that lower cost of living can only offset lower pay so much.

It is not uncommon for teachers to have second jobs to help pay the bills.

With fewer qualified teachers, students suffer. In some districts, computer-based learning has replaced teacher instruction. And while online education programs can be beneficial, they are not effective when used in place of a teacher. They are designed to be used as a supplemental teaching tool.

If students have questions or need extra help, who can they ask? The computer can’t help them. They need qualified teachers to step in, but in some districts there are simply not enough qualified teachers.

So what’s the solution? Increasing teacher pay is the first step. The measly pay increase being passed through the Legislature this session is not enough. Substantial pay increases will have to be implemented in order to change the perception of the teaching profession.

Too many college graduates fall back on teaching only if their first, second or third career choice doesn’t work out. And while those individuals might make good teachers, they won’t be there for the long haul if the pay remains so low.

We encourage lawmakers to make teacher pay a priority, not simply an issue to throw a few pennies at during an election year.

Online: https://www.dailyleader.com/

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Feb. 23

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on the opioid epidemic and churches:

The opioid epidemic is still spreading across our nation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 130 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdoses every single day.

Opioid deaths rank highest in New England. New Hampshire, Maryland, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut all fall in the top 10. West Virginia tops the list with 43.4 deaths out of every 100,000 deaths attributed to opioid overdose.

In New Haven, Connecticut, ambulances responded to more than 70 overdoses in a single city park in a single day back in August.

Churches like The Center Church, in Hartford, Connecticut, are training their leadership to respond to opioid situations. In 2018, a man overdosed on the church’s front steps. Police came to retrieve him, but the church’s pastor said she never found out what happened to him.

That led her to the Harm Reduction Coalition, an educational organization that prepares faith leaders to deal with drug problems in their areas - including the administration of Narcan, a drug used to counteract an overdose.

Other organizations have popped up, too, like Pivot Ministries in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Pivot ministries is a faith-based residential rehab that works with almost 50 churches throughout New England.

SMART Recovery is a self-management program for those dealing with addiction, with 27 meeting places in Connecticut. SMART Recovery also trains people and organizations who work with the addicted - churches and ministries are becoming more and more included in those seeking to help.

Not only do these organizations provide training for ministers, they seek to reframe the conversation about drug abuse and addiction. For too long, the church’s attitude about drug use hasn’t offered much hope to those who need it.

Though Mississippi ranks low on the list of opioid deaths (43rd), our state ranks fourth in the mass prescription of opioids. In Lee County, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 112 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. That’s right, there are enough opioid prescriptions written in this county for every person to have one, and then some. That’s true for Tishomingo and Alcorn counties, too.

This problem is all around us. The discrepancy between the prescription rate and death rate feels like a foot about to drop. Our church community needs to think ahead on this issue and be prepared to meet people where they’re at.

Online: http://djournal.com/

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Feb. 26

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the draft:

When the U.S. military, under pressure from feminists, dropped all gender distinctions in active duty service, it also removed any logic for requiring only males to register for the draft.

A federal judge in Texas rightly ruled late last week that such reverse discrimination is no longer constitutional.

It’s uncertain whether the administration, which had asked the judge to delay a decision until a commission studying the future of the draft weighed in, will appeal the ruling. Even if it does, it seems likely that, unless the Selective Service System is abolished, the judge’s ruling will prevail.

Since this nation now officially holds that the biological differences between men and women are mostly artificial distinctions, then this egalitarian philosophy must be applied not only when it’s advantageous to women but also when it’s not.

The United States has not used the draft in more than 45 years, relying instead on an all-volunteer military. It seems to have done just fine without a system whose compulsion fell unduly on those who didn’t have connections.

If circumstances, however, were to trigger the draft’s implementation again, both sexes should be equally subject to its mandates.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/