Education top concern, candidate Hopson says|[06/20/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Education remains the key to the state’s ability to attract jobs with competitive wages, attorney and state Senate candidate W. Briggs Hopson III said Tuesday.

Hopson, 41, told members of the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club, he was making his first run for elective office &#8220to give back to the community,” with improving education in the state as his focus.

&#8220We’ve got to compete globally,” Hopson said. &#8220Jobs that we used to get here in Mississippi are now taken by places like China, the Philippines and Taiwan.”

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Hopson referenced dropout rates locally and statewide, estimated at 38 and 27 percent, respectively.

&#8220Most of those kids will turn to crime or drugs and be mired in poverty the rest of their lives,” Hopson said. &#8220We can’t legislate morality into the home, but we can legislate improvements in the classroom.”

He echoed sentiments by economic development officials here who have said the Vicksburg Warren School District dropout rate has hampered business recruitment in recent years.

&#8220We’ve got to make sure people are qualified and capable of handling a job,” he said, referencing the closed CalsonicKansei plant at Ceres.

&#8220I’ve talked to people at Calsonic and they couldn’t get people to do basic things out there.”

As for specifics, Hopson, who became one of three Republicans to vie for the District 23 seat when he switched party labels on the final day of qualifying, said he favored implementing pilot programs in kindergarten through third grade, similar to Head Start.

&#8220It would focus on kids in impoverished areas,” he said.

Hopson advocated keeping the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funded annually, something that has only happened in election years since its implementation a decade ago.

&#8220That should be funded every year,” he said, adding teachers need more incentives to work in such areas and to stay in the public school system.

Hopson is a partner in the Teller Chaney Hassell & Hopson law firm on Cherry Street. He will be on Republican primary ballots Aug. 7 against incumbent Rep. Chester Masterson and retired state trooper James &#8220Buddy” Terrell.

Businessman Eric Rawlings is the only Democrat running for the seat and advances to the general election.

District 23 represents all of Warren and Issaquena counties and southwestern Yazoo County.