Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Maybe ‘trash dogs’ are the answer for Madison

December 21st, 2011 Comments off

Have you ever noticed that just about every neighborhood has a “trash dog”?

You know, the dog that wanders through every few days and picks out one house to hit, knocking over a trash can and dragging away all the good stuff it can and leaving a giant mess in its wake.

Or maybe it’s just the neighborhoods I have happened to live in. Who knows?

Regardless, unless you neighborhood has the best trash dog on the planet — one that is able to drag away every last sliver or scrap of paper or broken toy or whatever — do you ever wonder where your trash goes once you put it on the street?

The short answer is a landfill.

I never really thought I would be interested in trash, but in the last few weeks — amazingly enough — I have.

I had been invited to tour the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority landfill in Northeast Mississippi a few times, but I had never made time to view the facility until a couple of weeks ago. After a trip up to speak to the West Point Rotary Club, I made the 10-minute drive to the landfill with few expectations other than I might ruin a good pair of pants.

However, it was fascinating, and I left with my pants clean, other than the chicken I spilled on them from the Rotary meeting.

The science and high-tech brainpower that goes into building, implementation and maintenance of these facilities is amazing.

I am working on a story to publish in the next couple of weeks on the landfill. Having said that, there has been landfill controversy in the news the last several weeks.

Some Madison residents have been up in arms about a proposed landfill in Madison County that a woman at a recent public forum was quoted as calling it an “environmental injustice.”

The anti-landfill folks were reported to say their environmental and health concerns include:

>> Infrastructure problems;

>> Complications from stench …

>> Rodents and …

>> Buzzards.

While I don’t have all of the information at hand about this particular landfill, I am certain concerns these residents have levied aren’t as big a deal as you might think.

First, stench was high on my list of concerns when I went to the Golden Triangle facility. Amazingly, after touring nearly every inch of the place, that was not an issue.

Rodents? Probably, but I have since asked two homeowners about that issue to which they said there was none.

Buzzards? I saw a bunch there, but I literally see as many or more buzzards picking at road kill on St. Augustine Road near Strawberry Park in Madison every week. Those are buzzards I have to deal with every day. Buzzards at the landfill are at the landfill, not the local park where my children play.

I’m not saying the proposed landfill is perfect in every way, and I am not saying Madison County doesn’t need to answer the public’s questions. What I am saying is landfills of today aren’t your grandfather’s local dump, where people would drive to unload an ugly 20-year old couch.

Landfills are a necessity, and there is significant regulation to ensure the safety of the community.

Landfills are also a necessity for economic growth. For a county like Madison where business and residential growth is dizzying, the trash must go somewhere.

And, as far as I can tell, there aren’t enough trash dogs to go around.

Bryant forges ahead on healthcare city

November 23rd, 2011 Comments off

You have to give Gov.-elect Phil Bryant credit.

Gov.-elect Phil Bryant

He is jumping in with both feet to work on campaign promises.

>> Read more about healthcare in Mississippi

Bryant is set to lead a trip to Houston, Texas, to tour Texas Medical Center on Nov. 29-30.

Bryant, who will become governor in January, will be joined by Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads and some health care providers and business leaders.

Texas Medical Center consists of 49 institutions and is recognized as the largest medical center in the world. TMC has 162 buildings on its main campus, nearly 7,000 patient beds, over 90,000 employees, and 71,500 students.

Bryant has proposed creating a hospital city in Jackson, and the Texas Medical Center is a great place to emulate.

We hope that Bryant is able to find the same type of money from the private sector that Texas has been able to collect over the last 50 years.

A friend of mine in the fund-raising business for hospitals says that finding people to give huge amounts of money for healthcare these days is difficult.

Having said that, we applaud Bryant’s efforts.

Of course, one of the things Bryant could do immediately would be to ramp up the discussion on prevention and education.

We harken back to the recent story, “Life Expectancy Falling in 561 Rural Counties” by Bill Bishop that documents the fact that life expectancy is declining in more rural areas than urban ones. Read it. The first thing, though, that pops out is that 14 of the top (uh, worst) 50 counties in America with the shortest life expectancies are in Mississippi, including the top (worst) seven.

Then, there was the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that highlighted Mississippi and Alabama as the only two states, which continue to apply their sales tax fully to food purchased for home consumption without providing any offsetting relief for low- and moderate-income families.

Gosh, if Mississippians were able to purchase more healthy foods, maybe they wouldn’t have such short lifespans.

There’s more. Men’s Health magazine ranked Jackson No. 3 in the nation as part of its “Laziest City in America” series.

We definitely need a hospital city as well as lots of sidewalks leading up to it so we can exercise on the way to being treated for obesity and heart disease.

So, with one of the slowest growing economies in the nation because of poor education and health care, Bryant’s feeling that healthcare is a prime issue is refreshing.

Starting with the elimination of corn-based sodas from K-12 campuses could jump-start all of Bryant’s plans. We agree.

We also agree that his trip to Houston is productive and a step in the right direction.

Barksdale gets it when it comes to education

November 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale — an education advocate for Mississippi

Education is always the focus of former president and CEO of Netscape Jim Barksdale. Wherever he goes these days, he is singing the praises of Mississippi education.
So, it was interesting to hear Barksdale speak last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event, which came on the heels of the release of the national eighth grade reading in math scores.
Those scores have Mississippi firmly planted at No. 50 in the state rankings.
Yet, Barksdale says Mississippi children are making strides and that it is only a matter of time before the perception of Mississippi’s educational system is different.
The difference between Barksdale and other people who talk about education in Mississippi is that he has that business background to understand what, apparently, politicians do not.
Tough choices have to be made, Barksdale said, referring to teachers and administrators who aren’t living up to the standard our students deserve.
Barksdale is careful to point out that there are a significant number of teachers and administrators who are doing fantastic jobs, and believes making strides forward can be done.
He points to the Teach for America program, which has more volunteers in Mississippi than any other state.
In fact, Delta State University serves as the training ground for teachers for the entire country.
And that program is producing more good teachers and administrators than anything else Mississippi is doing right now.
Barksdale would like to see $12 million of the education budget devoted to help that program.
That’s not $12 million more dollars for education. Barksdale just wants to make sure that $12 million is allocated for that program and he believes the returns are worth the investment.
He is right.

>> RELATED VIDEO: Davis addresses Mississippi Council for Economic Education

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippians more optimistic about economy, education

>> RELATED STORY: Economist — Health, education key to economic growth

The bottom line is that teachers are the key to making the difference in Mississippi’s education.
And Barksdale would like to see a merit-based pay system to reward high-performing teachers.
Tough choices must be made and made now so that we can have better leadership for our future.
Barksdale is against having elected superintendents.
“You couldn’t run a business if you had to have elections for employees,” he said.
Appointing them is the way to go.
All of this won’t be easy and he knows that.
“Nobody likes change, but everybody likes progress.” Barksdale noted.
But he believes we can do it, because, in many cases, our public schools are achieving at a high level.
All of this takes money, and Barksdale stated many times he understands that money won’t buy an education for Mississippi’s kids, but, he said, “Money is essential, just not sufficient.”
Current levels of funding must be held firm is the message to the legislature, which should pay very close attention to Barksdale. He knows what he is doing.
It’s not just the future of the children at risk, it’s for all of us.
“Have faith in these little children,” Barksdale stresses.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at or (601) 364-1018

Bynum will be remembered for great, thought-provoking work

September 4th, 2011 1 comment

News that former Mississippi Business Journal editor and co-owner Buddy Bynum passed away this weekend is dispiriting for our newsroom. Bynum has long been held as the best and most thoughtful editor the paper has had in in its 30-plus year history.

James L. "Buddy" Bynum was editor of the Mississippi Business Journal from 1993-1997.

As the new editor of the MBJ three years ago, I began to go through old copies of the publication to see what had been done in the past. It didn’t take long to figure out that trying to match the writing and thought-provoking work of Bynum was going to be a work in vain.

He was the straw that stirred the drink, and if there was anyone that helped put the MBJ on the map, it was, without doubt, Buddy Bynum.

Bynum was with the MBJ from 1993-1997 and then served as the editor of his hometown paper — The Meridian Star — from 2000-2005. He also served as an aide to Gov. Haley Barbour and former Sen. Trent Lott.

There will be many great moments in the years to come at the Mississippi Business Journal, but the memory of Bynum will serve as a great reminder of what every journalist that walks through these doors must live up to in the future.

We will all miss Buddy immensely.

Education is our worst business ranking

November 12th, 2010 Comments off

In this month’s Atlantic Magazine, education is presented, front and center.

Unfortunately for Mississippi, the truth is not kind.

We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?

Incredibly, no. Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list. The best performer is Massachusetts, ringing in at No. 17. Minnesota also makes it into the upper-middle tier, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington. And down it goes from there, all the way to Mississippi, whose students—by this measure at least—might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia.

You can read the rest of the story here, but it is more of the same.

What I don’t understand is why education isn’t more of a priority for our state government.

Are we spending enough money or too much? That isn’t the question.

Education in Mississippi needs an overhaul, right now. Until we are willing to blow up the current model — from Pre-K to our universities — without regard to political consequences, we are going to be mired in the same education environment for the foreseeable future.

Is there anyone out there with the guts to try?

If not, Mississippi will continue to be compared to Thailand, where the large-scale sex industry flourishes and education is on the back burner.

Saving money versus educating children

February 4th, 2010 Comments off

In a poll on the MBJ Web site last week about 80 percent of the respondents said Mississippi should shorten the school year to save money for the schools and make money for transportation.

This came after we reported on a story that stated if school began at the end of August, a study by Gulf Coast Business Council Research Foundation finds the state could generate millions in tourism dollars and school districts could save money on utilities.

Currently, most districts begin holding class the first or second week in August. The study looked at starting at the end of August or the first week of September.

While the study does not advocate a position, the study does point out that if school started later and summer was extended, the state could make more than $150 million from in-state and out-of-state tourists. The study also says school districts could save between $1 million and $3 million a year on utilities.

Most other studies believe that children should be goig to school on into the summer, not shortening the school year. Many of those studies believe the only way to improve the American business model is for our children to be more immersed in studies.

So, I guess the question comes down to whether we want to save dollars today or make money in the future.

I’m not sure the study takes that into account.

MUW name needs to be changed; Legislature full of knotheads

February 2nd, 2010 Comments off

When I read this week that the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee took no vote on the bill that would have given the state College Board the authority to rename Mississippi University for Women, it made me wonder why the committee exists.

If this committee can’t take some type of action regarding an issue of changing the name of one of our universities, they should all resign their post.

Just make a decision, and don’t use a bunch of political dance steps to get around making a decision.

What a bunch of knotheads.

Outgoing MUW President Claudia Limbert announced in August that a new name — Reneau University — had been chosen for the Columbus campus.

Supporters of the change have said it’s needed to keep MUW viable.

Opponents of the bill have said marketing techniques — not the name — need to be changed.

Those opinions are both worthwhile.

Mine is that it is time for MUW’s name to change.

Mine is also that the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee should be emptied of personnel and restocked with people who can take up the business of the state’s universities and committees.

If a new group decides that MUW should keep its name, then fine.

But at least the body would have been doing its job.

Michigan vs. Mississippi: Let’s get it on!

October 9th, 2009 Comments off

It is really easy to fall into the trap of trashing Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm after her recent barb at Mississippi.
According to the Gongwer News Service, Granholm was defending tax increases this week when she said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”

Let’s throw the stats at her. … Mississippi has the 33rd lowest unemployment rate in the country at 9.5 percent while Michigan has the highest at 15.2 percent, according to the August statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Shame on you Governor Granholm,” Mississippi’s State Senator Dean Kirby, a Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote in an e-mail. “Have you compared your tax structure to that of Mississippi? Have you ever been to Mississippi? Shame, shame shame !!”

Shame, Shame, Shame !!!!!

OK, now let’s take a look at the real issue here — perception.

We still have a perception problem. Folks around the country view us as uneducated and backwoods.

We know that’s not true.

But it wasn’t so long ago that New York’s Charles Rangel made similar comments that enraged us all. Instead of firing back, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.

It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm listens to likely was born in Mississippi.

She should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi – from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.

Gov. Granholm should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi – from Faulkner to Welty.

We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.

Mississippi is a wonderful place, and we would like the opportunity to show everyone what we are talking about.

Many of us in Mississippi have visited Michigan and been treated wonderfully. We would like to show Gov. Granholm the type of hospitality we can extend.

Certainly, Gov. Granholm would not have made the insensitive comments she has against Mississippi if she had spent any significant time here.

Having said all of that, there are plenty of reasons that Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.

We all know the reasons — education, racial tensions etc…

While we are right to defend ourselves against the ignorance of the Rangels and Granholms of the world, we must be honest with ourselves.

We have a long way to go, and people like Granholm and Rangel wouldn’t have made the comments they made if there we didn’t have a problem with perception.

Enrollment increase not unexpected

September 1st, 2009 Comments off

When I read this morning that enrollment was up at Northeast Community College in Booneville, I was not surprised.

The college had 3,707 students enrolled when registration ended for the current semester. This marks a 275 student increase over the previous record set in the fall of 2007 and a 405 student boost over last year’s figure.

NEMCC President Dr. Johnny Allen said it’s impossible to attribute the rise in enrollment to any single factor, but he believes the college’s efforts to recruit more students have played a major role.

I was not surprised on a couple of levels.

First, with the economy still making things hard on Mississippians, 2-year schools in the Magnolia State have a real value to offer families wanting to send their children to college. Plus, the education at the community college level is as good as anyone could expect. Without having all the numbers in front of me, tuition at Mississippi’s community colleges are signifcantly lower than than of their 4-year brothers. That’s a real value under any economic scenario.

Second, however, is the 4-year schools having to increase tuition, specifically, the four small schools — Alcorn State, Delta State, Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi Valley State.

When the Stacy Davidson, Scott Ross and the other members of the Institutions of Higher Learning decided to implement a funding formula that penalized the small schools, a result such as this could be expected. I suspect, when all is said and done, the four small 4-year schools will have decreased enrollment while the community colleges, as a whole, will be up as well as big schools like Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.

In the end, the community colleges are looking good.