Blueprint for success

Published 9:27 pm Thursday, December 7, 2006

In the heat of public debate, baffling statements are sometimes made.

One came recently from Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Gordon called the House leadership’s proposal for full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program a “blueprint for disaster.”

Think on that a moment. It’s a statement that is close to Orwellian, for the precise opposite is more nearly the case.

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Mississippi’s long neglect of education funding at all levels, which has only begun to be remedied in the last couple of decades, has created a disaster of its own in all the social and economic hurdles this state has been forced to overcome because of an undereducated population.

The legacy of underfunding education necessitates persistent, aggressive efforts just to have a chance of catching up with neighboring states, much less the rest of the country.

The real blueprint for disaster is to continue falling back from the commitment the state made 10 years ago to give Mississippi public schools the tools to provide every child an adequate education.

Such a blueprint for disaster would also include a continuing public funding squeeze on universities, necessitating steadily rising tuition that threatens to price out of a college education those who need it most.

That blueprint would be complete if you continued to inadequately fund community colleges, which are on the front line of any efforts to upgrade and sustain a competitive Mississippi work force.

Fully funding education is a blueprint for a better future for Mississippi — pure and simple. We are far too behind the pack to be anywhere close to an argument about “throwing money” at education.

As one of Gordon’s colleagues, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, is fond of saying, we don’t know whether “throwing money” at education would help anyway because we’ve never tried it.

Reasonable people can disagree over the details of a budget and the best way to accomplish goals. But the refusal of some leaders to acknowledge the weight of the law the Legislature passed, and to insist — with upwards of $500 million unequivocally available for recurring expenses — that there is insufficient money to meet the law’s requirements, appears at least partially owed to plain political stubbornness.

Any plan that gives schools what they need to do their critical job is ultimately a blueprint for success.