Mississippi editorial roundup
Posted September 21
JACKSON, Miss. — Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Oxford Eagle on Mississippi's voting website:
The state's new website to help streamline the voter registration process in Mississippi is a win for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and voting-eligible Mississippians alike.
Head over to www.yallvote.sos.ms.gov and you'll find a clean, organized Mississippi voter command center with downloadable mail-in registration forms, information about how and where to vote in this year's election and an online form to report change of address (which is required by law to make sure you're voting in the right place).
Simplifying the voting process for eligible Mississippians has been a long time coming. Even better is that state leaders, Governor Phil Bryant among them, are confident the website could be the beginning steps of eventually transitioning to an online voter registration system in Mississippi.
Embracing modern technology to aid the democratic process in Mississippi is critical. We're glad our state leaders agree.
The Commercial Dispatch on the openness of government:
Over the past two years the media and members of the public have multiple times filed open meetings complaints against public bodies in this state.
While the general public may not see the importance of these complaints, which were each filed with the Mississippi Ethics Commission, what is at question is the openness of our government.
Three such complaints have been filed in our area alone.
The Dispatch has filed two ethics complaints over the city of Columbus' efforts to conduct city business outside of public meetings as prescribed by law.
In both instances, we felt there was incontrovertible evidence the city formed a consensus on issues outside of a public meeting.
The state ethics commission has ruled against the city on one. That case is now waiting to be heard by the state Supreme Court. In the other complaint, the commission has issued a preliminary ruling against the city.
Last week, WTVA-TV filed a similar ethics complaint against the Lowndes County supervisors.
Another ethics complaint was filed by a citizen against the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors in 2014.
All four of these complaints allege elected officials conducted official business outside of the public view.
Our form of government requires the decision-making process be conducted in public. That's especially true when taxpayer dollars are on the line.
Of course members of a public body need to be able to talk amongst themselves outside of meetings. We want them coming to meetings informed on a subject before they vote on it.
A distinct line emerges here, however. Having a conversation is one thing; forming a consensus outside a public meeting is another.
We find no fault when an elected official gets a "thumbs up" from his/her fellow board members before putting an item on an agenda or when an official needs to give information to other officials. Likewise, there is no problem when a board member calls someone and says, "Educate me on this issue."
We do find fault when those conversations turn to discussing the pros and cons of a subject. We also have a problem when "informal" conversations are structured to gain a consensus. Those are the conversations that must happen in public.
Granted, it's a fine line but an important one.
Between the complaints at the Ethics Commission level and those working their way through the court system, we hope that line can be better defined for our public bodies.
The Sun Herald on Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College:
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College once again is leading the state.
It is one of only two schools, and the only community college, in Mississippi to take advantage of a pilot program that pays for the cost of college classes for high school students.
For the first time in the more than 50 years of the Pell Grant program, the grants are being offered to high school students. And because MGCCC jumped at the chance to be part of the first wave, students in the Coast counties can save money on their college education.
Mississippi is near the bottom of education attainment rankings. Only about one in every five people in the state has a bachelor's degree or higher. On the Coast, the percentage of people with higher education degrees ranges from 22 percent in Hancock County to a little more than 10 percent in George County.
We need innovative programs to improve that ranking. It's no secret too many Mississippians live in poverty and too few of those people, roughly one in 10, earn bachelor's degrees. Higher education is one step toward the middle class for the poorest in Mississippi. This program could give them that chance.
"Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation's students," U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell wrote on the ed.gov website. "We're thrilled these institutions have joined us in answering the President's call to reimagine the high school experience and create stronger linkages to college coursework. These sites will help us learn how the availability of Pell Grants impacts participation and success in dual enrollment programs."
Studies in Texas, Colorado and Oregon have shown students who take college classes in high school are more likely to continue on to college; will spend less time getting a degree; and will receive higher grades in their first year than students who did not take dual-enrollment classes.
That MGCCC is one of only 44 schools nationwide invited into the fledgling program attests to the quality of the school. More than 400 high school students take college courses at MGCCC. We expect that number to increase when low-income students learn about this opportunity.
MGCCC is waiting. Students can still register for the semester's second start, which is Oct. 14. We urge the Coast's high school students to check with their guidance counselors to see if they are eligible.