The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Education lacking in budget

    The 2005 session has been a busy one so far for the Mississippi Legislature. Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have been attempting to end education programs for gifted students, trying to avoid issuing promised teacher pay raises and overlooking ideas that could potentially provide funds for the state. Apparently the state Legislature has once again lost track of its priorities. Education and well-being seem to have taken a back seat to a focus on regulations and nostalgia.
    The Legislature isn’t adding much strength to Mississippi’s already historically weak education. A five-year promise to steadily increase teachers’ pay may go unfulfilled in its final year because funding for the raise has been cut in half. Teachers across the state have been expecting this raise since the bill proposing the raise was passed in 1997.
    Classrooms statewide are becoming more and more crowded because teachers do not want to teach in Mississippi, and school districts can barely afford to pay all of the teachers they employ. Although lawmakers are still battling over the funding of this bill and most expect the bill to eventually pass, the fact that the raises are in question at all only highlights the poor respect given to education in Mississippi.
    Funding for education in Mississippi seems to be steadily decreasing with time. Last year, funds were so low that school districts were forced to tap into reserve money to pay teachers and support programs within their schools.
    Although the Legislature has plans to better support schools this year, important sacrifices are also planned. The fates of The Mississippi School for the Arts and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science are up in the air due to lawmakers’ concerns that the programs are becoming too expensive. Cutting these programs would take some of the state’s most talented and most intelligent students out of an environment suited for them and place them back in ordinary schools that will potentially hinder their academic growth.
    In order for the state to keep up with the rest of the nation and make successful progress, students with higher levels of intelligence need to know that their state supports them. Otherwise, they will leave Mississippi to help the progress of other states.
    Not only is it important to support those students who excel academically, but also it is crucial that students who possess artistic talents know that they will be supported by their home state. Mississippi was once booming with rich Southern culture, but over time, a lack of support for the arts in education has hindered the chances that the next generation will carry that culture with them.
    The Legislature is eager to honor cultural icons and citizens who took it upon themselves to move Mississippi forward in past decades; however, it isn’t showing much interest in taking Mississippi any further into the future.
    Somewhere among arguments over teacher pay raises and support for gifted students, lawmakers proposed a bill that would allow colleges to create programs designed for people who wished to be part of the casino workforce, which is one of the most economically beneficial attractions in the state. The bill, if passed, would have eventually produced casino scholars of sorts who could better drive Mississippi’s economy forward and possibly bring in money that could be used to fund education.
    However, this bill died in its early stages, and attention was given issues such as illegalizing hog-dog fights (although I’m no advocate for hog-dog fighting, I believe there are more important issues at hand). Interestingly enough, a proposal to begin a Mississippi state lottery that would fund help scholarships for college students was barely given a chance. Lawmakers are afraid that many Mississippians would oppose the idea because of the belief that gambling is a sinful practice.
    Lawmakers haven’t given up on education, but they don’t seem to care much for moving the education system forward. Mississippi’s budget does not have enough money for education because taxes aren’t being raised to keep up with spending. No one enjoys paying high taxes, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for the benefit of the state. These sacrifices should come in the form of higher taxes rather than a weakened education.
    If education continuously suffers, then Mississippians will never be able to crawl out of the current slump and better support the state’s economy and budget, and the state may never progress with the rest of the nation.
    Michael Robert is a freshman biological science major. He can be reached at [email protected].

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    Education lacking in budget