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Summary of recent Mississippi newspaper editorials


Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 18

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on legislative consequences:

The death of a bill in the Mississippi Senate that would have forbidden state tax dollars to go to any business entity that does significant business with Iran, with whom the United States has not had official diplomatic relations since the late 1970s, solved a potentially sticky problem that could have involved Toyota, whose plant in Blue Springs has just produced its 500,000th vehicle.

A company in the Toyota group, Toyota Tsusho, purchases crude oil from Iran, a fact that led to lawmakers backing away from the proposed legislation.

The plan now is to remake another version of the bill, which has passed the House, to prohibit investment of state funds with any person "engaging in investment activities in Iran." The prohibition against contracting with companies would no longer be in the legislation.

There's already been disagreement over whether prohibiting state assistance to entities doing business with Iran would cause problems with Toyota; Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, among others, says not; Ed Lewis, a Toyota executive, says the agreements use broad language and could have unintended consequences.

There is no reason to jeopardize an important business agreement and relationship with an unnecessary legislative action, especially one of unknown consequence.

It's true that several other states have passed similar bills, but their efficacy is not proven.

The states, in the main, historically have not imposed themselves into issues of foreign policy, which is the domain of the federal executive branch, including diplomats and people tapped by a sitting president as special envoys for particular issues.

The best established understanding is that the president, secretary of state and other officials under the executive branch are the agents and arbiters of American foreign policy, not the states, and that the U.S. Congress exercises oversight.

Besides, Mississippi has no effective control over private entities like Toyota or any other multinational company in which Mississippi does business.

Legislation of the type that is passed around from state to state in the same form often ignores the particular circumstances of individual states, which was the case here. Had the original bill passed, it's reasonable to assume it could have inadvertently prohibited any state assistance to Toyota in the event the manufacturer wants to expand the Blue Springs plant, which currently employees 2,000.

While the intent of the law was to support Israel, with whom Mississippi has a trade relationship, the potential unintended consequences required reconsideration and revision. Thankfully that happened before the legislation made it through the process.


Feb. 17

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on pot legalization:

We will be shocked if a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Mississippi goes anywhere.

In a religiously conservative state where alcohol, more than 80 years after the end of Prohibition, is still outlawed in some places, we can't see Mississippians in any great number supporting this legalization drive.

Kelly Jacobs, the organizer of the initiative, plans to be in Greenwood Thursday talking about the merits of legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. It will be interesting to see how many people turn out to hear her.

We would not expect many.


Feb. 17

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on social promotions:

Last week, the state House of Representatives voted to postpone the end of "social promotions" from third to fourth grade. Next week, the state Senate will have an opportunity to reject this attempt to delay for at least a year the end of an academic fraud. We urge senators to do just that.

Fraud is a strong word, but what else would you call advancing students from one grade to the next when they are not capable of performing at their current grade level, much less the next?

To put an end to this, the Legislature last year approved Gov. Phil Bryant's idea that there should be a barrier between the third and fourth grades. No student was to advance -- via "social promotion" -- until that student was reading at grade level.

Florida has done much the same, and its former governor, Jeb Bush, praised Bryant and the Legislature for acting "boldly" to end social promotions and provide "intensive remediation for third-grade students who struggle to read."

Mississippi's own Jim Barksdale, whose reading institute champions students' pre-literacy and reading skills, applauded the initiative as well. "We have got to attack literacy in the earliest years," he said, "and this act, along with the preK legislation that was passed, can get us going."

So it was hardly surprising that within minutes of the vote in the House last week Bryant issued the following statement:

"It is disappointing that 62 members of the House of Representatives would vote to socially promote children who cannot read. With votes like this, it is little wonder that Mississippi's public education system has been an abysmal failure."

That failure, however, is not the fault of any one chamber of the Legislature or even one branch of state government. The governor and his executive branch, as well as with the Legislature, share in any credit for what has been achieved and in any blame for what has been left undone.

The task now is to summon the leadership to ensure there is sufficient support to keep this initiative on track.

As the Clarion-Ledger's Jerry Mitchell has reported: A survey of superintendents by the Mississippi Association of State Superintendents predicted 28.4 percent of Mississippi's 38,074 third-grade public school students -- about 11,000 -- would fall short on the reading proficiency test, barring them from entering fourth grade. According to Bryant, about 5,000 third-graders are now being held back.

But, the governor said, "This is not just holding children back just to hold a child back. This is intervention on an individual basis so that a child will be able to read at the (third) grade level when they get promoted to the fourth grade."

Bryant has a particularly personal empathy with third-graders unable to perform at grade level. He too was held back at that point in his schooling. The cause -- dyslexia -- was not discovered until Bryant was a fifth-grader.

"We have to let children know they can overcome," Bryant told Mitchell. "We've got to stop failing them."

No one wants to hurt a child by keeping them from advancing with their classmates. But we put our children at even greater risk if we do not end "social promotions" now.


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