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Op-Ed: When will Mississippi expand school choice programs? | Opinion

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Douglas Carswell | Mississippi Center for Public Policy – 2024-06-24 16:27:00

Mississippi is almost surrounded by states that have expanded school choice. Why don't we?

Last Gov. Jeff Landry of signed into the LA GATOR Scholarship program. Starting in 2025, Louisiana families can funds to pay for educational expenses to meet their child's individual needs.

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Alabama passed similar legislation a few months ago. Arkansas did something similar in 2023.

In Mississippi, nothing. Why?

Mississippi does not lack a conservative majority. Conservatives have been in charge of the Mississippi House, Senate and Governor's mansion since 2012.

Conservatives in Alabama and Arkansas have had control for about the same length of time as in our state. Somehow, they seem to have done something with it.

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Louisiana conservatives have achieved more school choice in 12 months than Mississippi conservatives have in 12 years. Landry only won back the governor's mansion last year and he signed school choice into law last week.

A major part of the problem is that many Mississippi leaders refuse to see the need for reform. They want to believe that education standards are improving and that there's not much need to change. 

Here's why they are wrong:

  • One in four school in our state are chronically absent. That's 108,310 children in 2022-23, up dramatically from 70,275 in 2016-17. If Mississippi education is as good as they say it is, why are so many kids not showing up?
  • Eight out of 10 eighth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in math in 2022.
  • Almost seven in 10 fourth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in reading in 2022.

How many Mississippi politicians would be willing to send their kids to a school with those standards?

Almost four in 10 fourth graders in 2022 did not even reach the basic reading standard. Let's quit pretending things are fine when our current system is unable to teach 10 year olds the basics of reading.

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Reform is difficult. If you are a conservative, overhauling anything involving the public sector means stirring up a hornet's nest of opposition. It's easier to buddy up to the absurdly misnamed ' Campaign and defend the status quo. I get all that.

Here's why Mississippi conservatives absolutely have to use the majority they have to achieve school choice.

Over the past 30 years, we have seen the ideological takeover of much of America by the far left. If you had told me at the time of the Iraq war or even when Obama was in the White House that American would be protesting in support of Hamas in 2024, I would not have believed you. Today it happens frequently.

A generation ago, corporate America did not demand to know your preferred pronouns. Today you can hardly apply for a job at a big firm without doing so.

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Where do you think this ideological extremism came from? It has been made possible by the influence of critical theory ideologues on our education system.

Of course, not every school is a hotbed of woke intersectional ideology. But the only way to stop the advance of woke ideology in America is to give parents back control over their children's education.

The lesson of the past 30 years is that unless conservative America has a plan to take back control of the education system, the left will win. It is not enough to for office as a conservative because you happen to hunt or have the right bumper stickers on your truck.

 Conservatives in office who do nothing to advance school choice are assisting, however unwittingly, the radical left in their capture of this country.

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We cannot afford another decade of wasted opportunities to achieve school choice.

Douglas Carswell is the President & of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

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The Center Square

Louisiana Pearl River residents disapprove of new flood control lake plan | Louisiana

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Jacob Mathews | – 2024-07-15 11:31:00

(The Center Square) — Despite the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supporting a scaled-down flood control lake near downtown Jackson, Mississippi, environmental groups and residents in Louisiana remain opposed to the project, saying it could result in environmental damage to coastal fisheries and wetlands.

The federal agency said at a public meeting last in Slidell that the original plan isn't cost-effective. The Corps said a new plan called Alternative D is similar but proposes a smaller One Lake near Jackson. 

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Andrew Whitehurst, a representative from Healthy , an environmental nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the Gulf's natural resources, said the dredging near toxic waste sites might loosen some slurry and leachate down the river system.

Whitehurst also said the lives of multiple turtle and fish species whose habitats are in the Pearl River watershed would be endangered. 

The Corps said that the new plan will have no effect on the rivers levels below Monticello, Mississippi.

However, nearly two dozen Louisiana business owners and residents opposed the project during the hearing. The St. Tammany Parish Council also renewed its opposition to the plan with a resolution Thursday night. 

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“They were talking about how great it would be [to have] a park in Jackson, Mississippi,” Parish Council member David Cougle said. “But we are in Slidell.”

The Rankin-Hinds Drainage District, an entity of the state of Mississippi created to prevent in the two counties, supports the project, saying the lake would not only prevent flooding in Jackson, but an urban waterfront that would increase revenues and provide recreational opportunities.

“It's not being considered how this is going to negatively affect us,” Cougle added.

The Corps estimates that the project would reduce flood damages in Jackson by about $28 million annually.

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Whitehurst believes part of the plan, the weir that will impound the Pearl River, is just there to make a recreational lake. The Corps also says this plan would require extra pumps and levee improvements, and would increase flood risk for 52 homes in Mississippi downstream of the lake.

The Corps uses a cost-benefit test to determine whether to move forward with a project. They discovered there would be economic boost to the area from “boat ramps, camping , fishing piers, trails, or wildlife viewing areas,” which would add about $5 million in calculated annual benefits to the project.

Though the Corps has framed “Alternative D” as the most likely plan, it is still considering two others. One involves home elevations, buyouts and new levees with no new lake, which would have the least effects on the lower Pearl River.  The other proposes dredging the Pearl and adding levees near Jackson, but would also not involve creating a new lake.

Louisiana officials say they understand the need for both and flood control. They're urging the Corps to pursue a plan that won't harm the lower Pearl.

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“No one that lives in South Louisiana is going to begrudge them for wanting flood protection. We understand that as well as anybody else does,” Rep. Stephanie Berault, R-Slidell, said according to NOLA. “But you just don't do it at the expense of its downstream effects.”

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Mississippi congressman’s field director says ‘don’t miss next time’ | National

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-07-13 20:50:00

(The Center Square) – A now-deleted Facebook post by a staffer of Mississippi's lone Democrat congressman appeared to the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump on Saturday.

The deleted post by Jacqueline Marsaw, a field director for U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said “I don't condone violence but please get you some shooting lessons so you don't miss next time ooops [sic] that wasn't me talking.”

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The Mississippi Republican Party's X account said Thompson should “FIRE his field director for condoning the attempted assassination of President @realDonaldTrump !!!” The post also said Democrats “must repudiate these despicable statements.”

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Trump was wounded in the ear and off the stage Saturday at a rally in Butler, Pa. by U.S. Secret Service agents and other law enforcement

In a post to X after the shooting, Thompson said “There is no room in American democracy for political violence. I am grateful for law enforcement's fast response to this incident. I am glad the former President is safe, and my and prayers go out to everyone involved.”

Thompson is the author of the Denying Infinite Security and Government Resources Allocated toward Convicted and Extremely Dishonorable Former Protectees Act. House Resolution 8081 would strip Secret Service protection for anyone convicted of a state or federal crime and to a year or more in prison. 

With Trump already been convicted in May of 34 counts in New York of falsifying business related to hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, the bill by the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security is clearly aimed at the former president.

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The bill introduced on April 19 has yet to a committee hearing or a floor vote. 

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Tax revenues $181M above estimate | Mississippi

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-07-09 08:00:00

(The Center Square) – Mississippi tax revenues were $181.7 million above the estimate for fiscal 2024, according to data released by the Department of Revenue.

For June, the same release showed collections were $46.9 million more than the presession estimate at $7.7 . This year's total collections at $7.7 billion were $18.4 million more than last year, an increase of 0.24%.

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The state's new fiscal year started July 1. 

This came despite a nearly 6% decrease in collections of the state's income tax. In fiscal 2023, the state collected $2.39 billion versus $2.25 billion this year, a decrease of $141.8 million. For the month of June, receipts were $6.2 million above the estimate at $206.2 million. 

In 2022, Gov. Tate Reeves signed into an income tax cut that gradually reduces the state's graduated bracket system into a 4% flat tax. 

According to the report, sales tax revenues for fiscal 2024 ($2.82 billion) were nearly 3% more than the year prior ($2.73 billion). In June, sales tax receipts ($244 million) were $2.1 million over the estimate. 

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Collections of the state's corporate income tax were down by 6.7%, shrinking from $1.04 billion to $968 million, a decrease of $69.5 million. Collections in June were $8.6 million at $148.5 million. 

Use tax receipts were up by 4.87%, growing from nearly $389 million in fiscal 2023 to $407.9 million in fiscal 2024. The state's use tax is assessed on all out of state sales, online purchases. June collections added up to $33.8 million, $2.1 million greater than the estimate. 

The state's so-called “sin” taxes on tobacco and alcohol, including revenue from the state's wine and liquor warehouse and distribution system, showed a decrease as well, falling by 1.69%. In fiscal 2023, the state took in $262.1 million to $257.7 million this year, a difference of $4.42 million. 

Revenue from the state's gaming tax was also down by 4.3% for the year to date, falling from $162 million to $155 million, a difference of nearly $7 million. In June, gaming collections were $1.6 million greater than the estimate.

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Oil and gas severance taxes also took a dive, falling by 11.66% from $36.4 million to $32.2 million. 

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