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ROSS REILY — Legislature is intellectually dishonest on education


We keep hearing — over and over and over again — what a wonderful atmosphere there is in Mississippi for business. The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House love to talk about how cutting taxes is going to save the world and bring more business to Mississippi.

So, while I have my $10 savings on my taxes this year (I’ll buy a couple of more half gallons of milk with that), Phil, Tate and Mr. Gunn want to keep cutting. But now they just want to keep hacking away at education — all of it.

This week, in presentations to legislators, Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce and university presidents warned that Mississippi could fall further behind the nation economically if its universities can’t keep pace, as stated in an Associated Press story.

The fact of the matter is that the more the state of Mississippi cuts, universities are going to have to raise tuition to make up for the losses, which it has done many times in the past. That certainly affects me and my family, with three kids all planning to go to universities in Mississippi. My guess would be that whatever tax break Phil, Tate and Mr. Gunn gave me last year will not outweigh the tuition hike at our universities.

I don’t really think our legislators think things through very often.

How is any of this good for business? How is it good for business that our eight public universities are really no longer state supported, only state assisted?

How is it good for business that we have a legislature and governor that sees fit to skimp on education in any form?

“I hear y’all ringing an alarm bell and I want you to know I hear that,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, a Meridian Republican. He and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read, a Gautier Republican, both said they hope revenue, which has sagged because of a slow economy and GOP-backed tax cuts, will continue improvements it has shown this year.

“I know times have been tough,” Read told community college presidents. “When the money is there, we’ve always been there to help you.”

What a load of bull.

Mississippi business needs better universities and more prolific universities, yet many Republicans are continuing to ask whether efficiencies have gone far enough, especially at the university level.

Any legislator who would ask that question is woefully uninformed and ignorant of the daily routines at our universities.

I grew up in a household where my father was the Dean of Students at one of our fine public universities. I can remember walking the campus with my dad during holidays, breaks, nights and weekends across decades as he checked the air conditioning and heating levels of every building on campus. He was all too aware of the money being spent and how he had to be a good steward of it. And other administrators at every school are having to pinch every penny in the same way. It has been that way for the last 50 years.

It is important that state leadership understand that funding for higher education is an investment, not merely a budgeted expense item. The products and rewards of enhanced higher educational opportunities in Mississippi pay huge dividends that benefit the entire state.

To suggest anything else would be intellectually dishonest, which is really the definition of our legislature when it comes to education.

And that is bad business.

» ROSS REILY is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He can be reached at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.



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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. The reason Universities are underfunded has nothing to do with the money. It has everything to do with the number of Universities MS is trying to support. This comes back to our segregation past and the alumni of eight separate Universities all wanting their University to continue. Closing a University is next to impossible, but we could limit the fields of study and eliminate duplication.

  2. Julia A O'Neal

    This is not a “reply,” despite the fact it’s the only way I can post. I agree with Mr. Modisett, and a big problem is the HBC (is that the right acronymn? Historically Black Colleges?). Just don’t have all those segregated schools.

    OK, here’s what I want to say: The “powers that be” (including Philbilly who has capitalized for years on his relative having mutilated Emmett Till) don’t want ANYBODY to be educated. They certainly aren’t. Gunn-in-the-House and Tater Tot would not be caught dead at an evening lecture for the public at Millsaps.

    And because they are uneducated themselves, they don’t realize that there is more to it than “college.” I am enjoying “This Old House” series on “Generation Next,” educating young people for the construction industries, which are so high-tech now that Tater Tot would run away in fear and shame were he confronted with some of the situations these kids address. It will take a whole new view of education and these “leaders” (I cringe every time I hear that word applied to these troglodytes) aren’t even close to understanding.

  3. Frank Mickens

    Dan, I’m surprised at you! What happened to the progressive enthusiastic, go for broke guy who used to commandeer WLBT so successfully? Please don’t buy into the current poor mouthing being broadcast, created and perpetrated by our current crop of legislators (and governor).

    As for eliminating duplication of programs, remember way back when removing duplication of programs was done decades ago? That’s when JSU was named the states “Urban University. Well obviously that didn’t work as the three major universities stayed hell bent on adding new programs and expanding their competing programs. Not to mention upgrades of facilities.

    Of course it’s about money! It’s almost always about money when you ascertain where priorities, hopes, dreams and responsibilities are truly valued. Money vs mouth as it were.

    Too many universities? As for closing universities, the City of Charlotte NC was told by Amazon their city/ region did not make the final cut for Amazon’s new regional distribution center because they didn’t have enough higher education infrastructure in place. MS is blessed with these established campuses however the state must capitalize on their past investments by making more investments. With the possible exception of MS Valley State, and MS. University for Women, MS has a fairly well spaced regional higher education system.

    What is also hurting is cutting K-12 budgets as well. Cutting K-12 destroys the feeder system for our universities. Case in point- We have a statewide, (and national as well) teachers shortage with no end in sight because although our universities have the facilities to educate more teachers there is no plan to use K-12 as the source of these future teachers so university resources sit under utilized.

    As for upgrading universities to compete nationally/internationally, MS is basically educating locals for export since the state doesn’t produce enough jobs to even keep the meager number of graduates we produce in state.

    As long as we maintain a dog eat dog, stagnant growth in our education/economic pie attitude, this state will never improve. Just as the current powers that be want it.

  4. Frank Mickens

    Julia, I so agree with you. I’ve been in MS for 40 years and I’ve always taken heart that the “uneducated” leadership you mention would eventually phase out and be replaced by more educated and progressive leadership but it looks like I was hoping for too much. My college educated kids saw the handwriting on MS wall and not only to go to college out of state *Syracuse and NYU), they made the decision to live elsewhere, among a “higher class” of white folks.

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