Supervisors need to get their education priorities in order

Published 7:44 pm Friday, March 8, 2019

Earlier this week in this space, we praised the Warren County Board of Supervisors for supporting the Vicksburg Warren School District’s Leader In Me initiative with a 3-2 vote Monday adopting a resolution that would help the Chamber of Commerce in its funding of the program that has proven to be quite successful in the school district.

Unfortunately, that vote was null and void in the eyes of the Mississippi Legislature, which requires a special bill to give the county the authority to make the one-time $100,000 donation from the supervisors. There’s an unwritten rule among the legislators that such a local matter must be unanimous among the elected officials before a special bill will be taken up in the legislature.

Supervisors John Arnold and William Banks voted against the resolution and apparently do not believe or realize how this $100,000 investment impacts the future of our greatest asset — our children.

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Arnold said, “I’m not in favor of putting the tax burden on the citizens when there is funding right now sitting in the school system that they could easily cover this.”

What “tax burden” he is talking about is unclear. The school system should not be required to fund this shortfall that was created by the state legislature not committing the necessary funds to assist the Chamber with its commitment to Leader In Me.

And we can assure you the Vicksburg Warren School District doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting around, as Arnold implied. In today’s environment of grossly underfunded public schools in Mississippi, that’s simply ridiculous.

Besides that, the resolution to support the special bill did not automatically commit the supervisors to hand over a $100,000. The special bill would have only given the supervisors the authority to “contribute funds in its discretion to the Vicksburg Warren School District Leader In Me program.”

This kind of thinking by Arnold and Banks is exactly the reason it is so difficult for our schools to make progress here. These supervisors will complain about our public schools, but they aren’t willing to help make them better.

The Vicksburg Warren School District has made amazing strides in recent years. Graduation rates are vastly improved. But more importantly, the focus of developing responsible future leaders is paying off, thanks to the Leader in Me program.

It is highly likely the five supervisors knew about this unwritten rule in the legislature despite voting in favor of passing the resolution.

If that’s the case, the supervisors should be ashamed of themselves and the public angry.

Some of the blame also lies with the state legislature, which agreed to provide $100,000 over four years for the Leader In Me initiative as a model for the rest of the state. The legislature has not provided the funds for the third year and Chamber officials do not anticipate any funding coming from the statehouse for the fourth year.

Supporting education, whether you’re in the statehouse or the courthouse, should be a priority. Leader In Me has proven to be a worthy endeavor for our children with proven results and for funding to become a political matter among the county board of supervisors is embarrassing.

Voters should be mindful of this when they go to the polls in August and November. Vicksburg and Warren County deserve elected leaders who want to help prepare our young people for a bright future here. That’s obviously not a priority for Arnold and Banks.