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Mississippi editorial roundup

January 24, 2018

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Jan. 23

The Greenwood Commonwealth on effects of proposed Medicaid reduction:

The Mississippi Legislature is wrestling with a number of huge issues this year. Is there a better way to calculate funding for the state’s public schools?

Should the state start a lottery to try to shore up its finances? Is it finally ready to start putting real money into repairing or replacing its deteriorating roads and bridges? What’s to be done about the shortage of teachers? What about the same with prison guards?

Add to that daunting list this one: When Mississippi reauthorizes its Medicaid program, what changes if any should it make?

One change it should not make is to further reduce the health-insurance program that presently covers one in every four residents — those who are poor or disabled, including most of the state’s nursing home population.

Yet, the chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee, Brice Wiggins, has drafted a bill that would do just that. It would reduce reimbursement rates by another 5 percent for most health-care providers by lifting an exemption that had shielded them from a previous effort to reduce reimbursement rates.

If this happens, the hospitals and nursing homes might have no choice but to swallow the cut.?However, doctors, who have been complaining for years that Medicaid reimbursements are less than the cost of providing the service, don’t have to. They can just stop treating Medicaid patients, as a growing number of them have.

If fewer doctors are willing to treat the poor, that means less access for the most vulnerable segment of this state’s population. Moreover, cutting Medicaid rates would most likely backfire and end up driving up the state’s costs. How so? If persons on Medicaid can’t find a primary doctor to treat them, they are more likely to just go to the emergency room, the most expensive place for medical care, even for minor ailments.

Instead of driving doctors to drop Medicaid patients, the state should be trying to encourage them to take more of them. You don’t do that by making the care more unprofitable than it already is.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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Jan. 17

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on targeted school success:

The moving target teachers and school administrators in Mississippi are expected to hit each year with state-calculated grades might end up shifting again midyear after an apparent issue raised from federal education leaders.

If you’ve ever spent time around Mississippi educators, one piece of feedback you’ve probably heard is the difficulty in keeping up with how their school and district will be evaluated at the end of the year thanks to what seems to be an ever-changing accountability model.

This model is what, in recent years, has become the A-F letter grades the public sees each year. The items that go into factoring those letter grades are what have given educators a headache for the last few years.

According to the Associated Press, this year was supposed to be the first year since 2010-11 that Mississippi schools taught the same curriculum, gave the same standardized test and were graded using the same scoring system as the year before.

But news last week that the state may have to reset the scale again in 2018 quickly put out the light at the end of that tunnel.

The U.S. Department of Education rejected parts of Mississippi’s system in December. Mississippi is among several states that have been asked to make changes in plans to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed in 2015, as reported by the AP.

At issue apparently is how the state calculates points used to assign grades to schools. Establishing those scores is contentious, particularly because districts complain when the state changes rules in midstream.

Nathan Oakley, who directs elementary education and reading for the Mississippi Department of Education, told state Board of Education members Thursday that the “unexpected” federal objections mean that Mississippi must now include a score this year for students learning English as a second language in its system, even though the school year is half over.

Mississippi had planned to phase-in the English learner measures, fully incorporating them in three years. Of Mississippi’s 142 school districts, 68 report no English learners, while only 58 have more than 10 districtwide.

With a few other objections included, state education leaders will turn in an updated plan to the U.S. Department of Education by early February, but the AP reports it could be three or four months before changes are finally approved by the board.

Changing the target halfway through a school year is unfair to students, teachers and administrators who started the school year with a certain set of parameters in front of them to achieve.

We’re hopeful state leaders will work to “minimize the impact” of these changes as they said they would last week. But we also hope they review this situation and determine if anything could have been done before submitting its proposed system to avoid winding up in this situation again in the future.

Online: http://www.djournal.com/

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Jan. 15

The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus on extra-curricular activities:

Over the weekend, about a hundred middle school and high school kids participated in a robotics competition at New Hope High School.

They were competing for spots in the state competition, to be held in March at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in March.

It seems trite to suggest all who competed this weekend walked away winners. Obviously, the nature of competition is to determine winners.

But in this case, every child who competed left with something worthy of celebration.

For future engineers, these kinds of competitions help apply the science and mathematics they learn in the classroom to something tangible, which is certain to stimulate learning.

But the nature of the robotics competition promotes and develops skills that will serve these students well regardless their career path.

Through the process students learned how to work with teammates, how to communicate with others, how to solve problems. There is no career we can think of where those skills are not important.

Being able to work with others, to listen, to exchange ideas, to negotiate, all in the pursuit of a common goal is what to seek a common goal is what the working world is all about.

In much the same fashion that not everyone who plays sports will become a professional athlete, working as a team on a robotics project provides experiences that go beyond the narrow scope of engineering.

For much the same reason we applaud the emergence of programs such as robotics, which put kids together in an environment where they can learn from and with each other, we long for a return of an old, and mostly forgotten program that once was a staple of American education.

In schools across the country, debate teams once flourished. Each school had its own debate team from which the top performers were selected to take on debate team from other schools. Debate team members spent hours studying their topic, assembling information to support their arguments, practicing their presentations, taking notes from famous debates, both on style and substance.

They learned the craft of how to fashion an argument, how to avoid logical fallacies, how to appeal to an audience, how to maintain composure, how to make a civil, respectful case for their point.

Debate still exists in pockets of the country, but its heyday came and went long ago.

There has never been a greater need for those skills than today, thanks to a media landscape of toxic partisanship, screaming matches posing as debate on TV.

None of that would fly in the world of debate, of course. Students would be held to a higher standard.

Of all the things students may learn in school, you could make a good case that debate may be as important as any, given the world we live in today.

Our nation is perishing for our refusal — perhaps even our inability — to communicate honestly, openly respectfully.

So, let’s hear it for robotics.

And let’s also bring back debate clubs to our schools.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com

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