A Different Kind of Economy

When John Bel Edwards became governor of Louisiana in 2015, the economy was so bad that he floated the idea of shutting down the football programs at public universities.

That got people’s attention. As the result of eight years of tax cuts under the previous governor, Bobby Jindal, the state faced a mid-year shortfall of $850 million. Gov. Edwards convinced the state legislature to approve a 1% increase in the sales tax, and to rescind some of Jindal’s cuts, as a means of making the government solvent. Results have been good–although a sunset clause in the sales tax will result in another massive shortfall if it isn’t brought back in the next session.

Nonetheless, Gov. Edwards has a gift for seeing what his citizens want, prioritizing space in the budget for those things, and making them realities. It cost significant political capital, but he made sure that Louisiana expanded Medicaid. He has done what he can to make Louisiana’s major industries better stewards of the environment. Most recently, he announced that the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, would have funding for a $27 million dormitory that can house approximately 370 students.

I am delighted for my alma mater. I’m also extremely jealous. I wonder what it would take for Mississippi to make a similar investment in the well-being of MSMS. Hooper hasn’t been given more than ad hoc repairs since my arrival in 2004. Return vents are clogged with two decades of grit; ceiling tiles are discolored; central air and heat are as suspect here as they are in the dorms. And the dorms, of course, are in worse shape. Not Mary Wilson bad, perhaps, but bad nonetheless. Isn’t it ironic that the best school in the state–the sixth-best in the nation–has a smaller budget than many C- and D-rated districts around the state?

Last week, we learned that LSMSA had seven national merit semi-finalists–not quite half the number we had at MSMS. Perhaps Mississippi should commit $54 million to the renovations we need so desperately. One could make the argument that we’ve accomplished twice as much.

So, here’s my question for student bloggers: other than getting legislators to (try to) sleep in your dorms or pass one of your classes, how can we get them to prioritize the needs that we have?

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24 Responses to A Different Kind of Economy

  1. Kelsey Hollingsworth says:

    MSMS is different from other public schools in that, not only do we have academic buildings to upkeep, but residential halls as well. We don’t even have the full janitorial staff to clean and upkeep our buildings like my old school did. Work Service takes the place of this.The buildings at MSMS are also a lot older than those at other schools, my home high school was completed when I was in the fifth grade. So why do “A” Rated school districts like Ocean Springs that are riddled with crackheads and ACT scores of 17 get more funding than a school where it’s not uncommon to take AP Chemistry and most people are a member of the 30+ Club? That’s easy for me to answer, OS has room to grow and if the local government believes that a new high school with room for 3000 students and millions of dollars thrown into computer labs that arent used and building a new football stadium for a team that consistently loses, they are going to take that chance and help them grow.. MSMS really doesn’t have much room to grow as they see us. We call ourselves the #6 school in the country yet we don’t have WiFi or Air Conditioning a lot of times.
    Maybe instead of showing legislators or whoever what we have accomplished in the dumbest state with the highest rate of teen pregnancy, such as 15 National Merit Semifinalists out of 104 students or how many MS Star Students or Ivy League acceptance lettters we have, we should show them what we could do if we had that additional funding. We could show them how our lives are affected or how much of a safe haven MSMS is for some of us who struggled at home and are now able to thrive and reach new limits through our school. Or how many more students we could connect to through our outreach programs. We have so many ideas and opportunities to help that are scrapped because we simply can’t afford it.

  2. Zakkaria says:

    I agree with many of the mentioned perspectives on this subject. Mostly, those that stated the legislature may believe their best out is to fund those places in the state that could better MS in the long-run. Yes, it may be true, most definitely for me, most of us aspire to get away from MS. However, who’s to say we won’t come back and benefit MS after we’ve went out into the world, used this God-given intellect wisely to become successful beings, and expanded our human capitals? You would think THAT would be the reason they did fund MSMS, rather than the reason they don’t. They should consider meeting with all students here, and having us argue our reason as to why we, the students of this great, yet outdated, institute believe we are extremely under-funded. It is quite absurd the number 1 school in the state, housing and teaching some of the brightest children in the world, is not being granted all it deserves.

  3. Ellen Overstreet says:

    We have to make the legislature realize that the money they put into MSMS could benefit Mississippi as a whole. Although many of us are trying to get far far away from Mississippi, maybe future generations will want to stay and try to better the state. If MSMS starts to receive more money, people may start to think that Mississippi is starting to care more about education.
    Really the only way to make legislature realize that MSMS would be a good investment is to just annoy them until they give in. People, including parents and students, need to speak up and voice their opinions about MSMS’s funding.

  4. Erin says:

    I think most legislatures know about MSMS, but very few want to fund us. Most people that go here want to get away from Mississippi forever after graduation. Maybe the legislatures know that if they pour a lot of money into this school, it will leave the state with the students who vow never to come back here. (the money won’t literally leave, it’ll leave in the form of an education from top notch teachers from all over.)
    I have no clue what could be done to make legislatures give us money. We already invite them to almost everything we do and go to the capitol and beg for money, yet they still don’t give how much money we actually need.

  5. Taylor Shamblin says:

    Catching the eye of local legislature is quite difficult without having them experience the school as we do. How are they going to empathize being with a school that is supposedly the gem of the state, yet receives less attention than most of the gravel around it? Larger schools, such as Oxford High School, are given exorbitant amounts due to their “kid-count”, but because of our specialized requirements, we are left to be paupers, begging on hands and knees to the state. How are they going to expect us to maximize our potential, when we are placed within an environment that continues to become more and more fiscally choked each year?

    They expect this school to be a powerhouse- creating well-rounded, highly successful students who will turn around later in life and flood this state with our hard earned riches because we “remember where we came from”. Yet, they treat us as if we are a third cousin.Seemingly, they only know of us when we are on the news, or when we have made yet another great accomplishment that they deem requires their presence in our halls. And when they are here, witnessing the state of our school, all they do is pinch our cheeks and leave us with one of those “you’re doing a good job kid”, and return to their office to handle, what I can assume to be, “more important matters” than our ensuing financial demise.

    They ,the legislature, turn us right around and send us skipping back to the flickering lights, broken showers, outdated elevators, poor AC, mildewed ceilings, and leaded paint of our “new home”. They give us a home in these conditions and expect us to think fondly enough of it to pour diamonds upon them from our future golden chalices? I think not. I do not think we can truly make them understand what it is like to live, learn, and administrate in these conditions until they are made to do so in our shoes. They will not be able to empathize with the struggles of the common MSMS student, until they have become one of the students here. They will have to sleep in the same dorms as we do. They will have to be taught in the same two poorly-funded buildings as we do. They will have to learn to look past the broken tiles and pieces of ceiling missing when they pick up a package from their parents. They will have to learn to apply for ten colleges, write a ten page paper, and keep up with eight classes. It is only after they are embedded in this MSMS life, will the idea *click* and this question make sense: how can we,as adults, turn around and give our appreciation back to this state, when this state would rather appreciate a large chunk of gravel than it supposed gem?

  6. B says:

    Okay, let’s look at this from the Legislature’s perspective. In their mind, we are the sixth best school, a school for ONLY the “smart” people can think of getting in, a school that is “needy” with all the facilities. We are the school that is unlike any other but what are we doing for the other schools in our state. Because of the resources (the number one faculty, excelled students, and the connections with corporations) that we have, it is hard to convince them to give us the money. Money is more likely to be given to the schools (like the Delta schools) that don’t have many resources so they can get the resources to the students who aren’t as fortunate. So now the question is do we really need the money as much as the other schools?

    Not saying we don’t need money, but cant we suffice with how much we have until we find a better way to get money other than the government? (yes, I understand that it would mean we won’t be a “public school”, but it would help with the financial situation we are in.)

  7. Arin says:

    Our legislature does not understand the way of life at this school. They view MSMS students as the smart kids, which we obviously are, but that doesn’t discredit our need for resources. The legislature sees us as already prepared and equipped and gives funding to underperforming schools. Not only does our school need funding for academic life, we also need to improve our residential living. Our dorms are mold and bug infested. In order to excel more than we already do, our students need to receive better funding.

  8. Dennis Lee says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with the view of regarding education as a kind of economy. But it might be helpful to see it in different ways. So, let’s talk about the economy. As defined in Wikipedia, an economy is “an area of the production, distribution, or trade, and consumption of goods and service by different agents.” Imagine the educational system to be a factory. The government put in money to build schools, schools then “educate” students, who are the final products. The government then sell these “products” to the market and (hopefully) gain the profit.
    Now consider two cases. If the factory owner has money, he/she would put the money into the production line that usually gains him/her the most profit. If he/she has no money, he/she can either stop investing or pray the money put into the production line can improve the financial difficulty.
    Regardless of my views on educational investment, as a student at the MSMS, it is to my best interest to let the government smash us with dollar bills. To let them do something like this, we must let them realize that if they smash us with $100, we will return them with $200 in ten years. It is as simple as the stock market – if the value of a certain stock goes up, I, as a retail investor, would buy this stock. I can either see an increasing value of the stock in the past, hear about the potential of this stock from someone else, or simply have faith in it. Do the graduates from the MSMS bring money back to the state? Are we good enough to win people’s flattery? Are we cute enough to let everyone voluntarily bury us with money? Education is not philanthropy. If a school doesn’t make a “profit” in some way, don’t expect anyone to fund it more than it deserves to get. At the same time, we should rejoice because education is not business either, because if it is, we’d lose our school.
    Back to how do we get money. We have to let the state legislator realize (or at least give them an impression) that a better MSMS can educate better students, who will, in turn, bring the state economic profit. MSMS should not be merely a step for those who do not call Mississippi their home. Sadly, there are some among us who are extremely eager to flee the state. Because of various reason, they have to stuck in the worst state of all, and they will leave here at the earliest chance possible and never think back. They do not care a bit about the tax money paid for their “free” meals every day – and they are complaining the about poor facility? Oops.
    I believe it is clear enough why we don’t have money.

  9. Khytavia Fleming says:

    I believe it would be difficult to get legislatures to give MSMS more money. I mean MS is one of the poorest states in the country. We also have lower taxes, housing, etc. In all honesty, legislatures know of MSMS. For God sakes, students are taken to the Capitol every year in the hopes of snagging money out of them. Also, I believe legislatures think that more money should be funded into academically lower schools because there’s a higher chance of students at these schools staying in MS, which can benefit MS in the long run. Whereas at MSMS, many of us are trying to get as far away from MS as possible. The only way I see MSMS receiving an increased salary from the government is if the amount of MSMS graduates going to college in MS increases.

  10. Linda Arnoldus says:

    It’s difficult in general to get people to work on solving issues that don’t directly pertain to them. The same goes with legislators. I think the problem is the disconnect between legislators and the urgency of the situation. Education is the ultimate investment in the state’s future. I think that campaigning, rallies, writing to senators, anything that spreads awareness would help the problem.

  11. Esmond Tsang says:

    The biggest issue I believe is that the return on the funding has not and perhaps will not return back to Mississippi. The State Board of Education is looking to improve the state in the long run by educating its students. The question then becomes which ones- the poor struggling, rural school or perhaps the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science. One can easily argue about how MSMS is high-achieving with the number of National Merit Semi-finalists, the number one faculty in the nation, and the 6th best school with extremely high scholarships offered-per-student.
    Sadly, MSMS students are a small group of people, less than 350 students and faculty. We do not have a big football team attracting friends and family to support our school on Friday nights, nor do we offer a marching band that hundreds of people may see in a year. With the things MSMS does, we strive our interests in excellence and perhaps that’s not always the way to the most people. It’s harder to justify spending more money on a school that seems to affect such a relatively few people when the e-mails, phone calls, and news point about the various successes or failures of school districts around the state.
    For our needs to be answered, I believe MSMS students, family, and alumni need to reach out to their community and give. While giving more of the knowledge and experience attained here, we can make a better appeal to our legislature that MSMS is making a difference now and later.

  12. Sophie Tipton says:

    The legislators are probably aware of the thought, or at least some of them are. The problem just comes down to getting them to care that much. People are still going to come to MSMS despite the repairs it really needs (such as reliable air conditioning). As much as it sounds wrong to turn it against the school, but from all, I’ve heard in a pick and choose society is that MSMS lost a lot of funds a little while back, but it was fought hard to get them back. We still want and clearly need more money, but it appears that instead of fixing things up that all the money is allocated to bringing in more students. which, is not a bad thing, but perhaps in the light of things repairs seem necessary. Now that my rant is over and I’ve strayed off topic enough, one of the best ways that I can say to influence legislators is to show them what we can do, and what we’ve done. Although in our modern society schools with a football team are going to get more of what they want instead of academic schools, but for most of them, that’s going to get them nowhere except working at a fast food restaurant. Academics are what really push the future, we need doctors to figure out cures for cancer, we need scientists to discover new things, we need engineers to make new technological advancements, we need teachers who care as much as they do at MSMS, we need all of this and so much more. Yet, some of the pinhead legislators can’t get that through their heads as their glory days probably came from when they were playing on a football team. It just needs to be realized what is actually needed and important. Entertainment is good, but most people can’t make a living off of it. It will put a smile on my face in 20 years when I’m on my way to my high up successful job and I see someone I’ll only know by the number from their old jersey serving me my food. Because what they need to be convinced of doesn’t just lie in the next few years, but the way academics are funded paves the way for the future. Which makes MSMS so deserving of any funds they can receive.

  13. H20 says:

    Other than the three days of no air conditioning, I believe even though serious remodeling is needed, it isn’t necessary. Most of us don’t even spend a good eight hours in our bed, much less in the room itself (unless you’re not a library person). Even though Mississippi does not make a big investment for MSMS, we should be thankful for what we already have. As a state, they have to take into account all the schools they have, so although MSMS’ dorm conditions could be better (and MSMS should deserve better) with its abundant group of uniquely gifted students, we uniquely gifted students should think about other schools, too. Would having a better dorm life even have any correlation to better grades? Why not help Mississippi as a whole by letting Mississippi fund schools that actually need the funding? I’m not sure about other schools, but my home school seriously needs it. Simply put, there are schools in far worse conditions.

  14. Gina says:

    In order to get the legislators to prioritize our needs, we need to find ways to expose them to the areas that need to be improved. They already know our academics are great. We could invite them on campus and allow them to physically experience the campus for themselves. Often times, people don’t truly believe or understand things until they experience it. Additionally, proposing bills and writing petitions could bring attention to our needs.

  15. Talle says:

    I believe that legislators are aware of MSMS’s academic and overall accomplishments. However, the achievements that the student body receives, is not reciprocated through the amount of funding that the school receives. During my time here at MSMS, I have personally experienced this place become a literal hell due to the scorching temperatures in the dorm when the AC died out. The only way for legislators to understand is by being forced to listen. Administration, staff, students, and parents should all voice their concerns in a way where legislators are forced to pay attention and make a change.

  16. Emily Penton says:

    Let them come stay in 90 degree dorms rooms for a couple of nights because the air condition part has to be order because it’s so old it can’t be found somewhere close by. I’m sure then our funding would go up.

  17. Alyssa T. says:

    I believe that Mississippi has to prioritize education as a whole first. Coming from a school that mainly focused on sports, it is quite true that C and D rated schools are given more. I believe that is because the people in the community is more willing to get to know the children at these schools better and give more money, because they feel as if those students will need the money more. Where I’m from, being smart is associated with your pockets, since most parents couldn’t afford a good head start for their children because they are too busy working. We would have to get these people to see that we are more than what is in our pockets and that most don’t have the money to help put back into this school. I think that having more arts and sports might get our school recognized and respected more. I hate to say it but we have to show them more physical things than grades or research.

  18. Katelyn Booker says:

    Of course, Mississippi School For Math and Science is the best school in the Mississippi, but that’s not gone make the state give us 27 million dollars. To them we were doing just fine, we need to bring them in and show them why we deserve and need the money.

  19. Kinsey says:

    We could definitely use some more funding. There is no reason that dorm rooms of a public high school should reach 90 degrees. All of our facilities are old and worn out. If we had more money, we could reach more students around the state and update facilities. Above all it is true our budget is pathetic, but in the end we did all choose to be here.

  20. Samantha Broussard says:

    The lack of funding MSMS recieves is indeed frustrating. With our ranking of 6 in the nation and the best public school in Mississippi, what more can we ask for? We have accomplished so much with the small budget, but so much could be done with more funding. Our residence halls are, at best, subpar and probably older than most of the faculty. With better funding we could make our dorms more comfortable and a better place for us to live, consequently resulting in less illnesses and attending class more. Also with funding we could help to start more clubs and organizations, allowing for more students to express interest in attending MSMS. To recieve more funding, I wish we could get the legislators to spend a night in Goen without AC and a day in Hooper, but that’s not realistically possible. Sending students to voice our concerns and give the legislators a real example of how we live daily could be a start, but any more funding would be great. We deserve to have more funding and be treated like the number one high school in Mississippi rather than one of the lowest rated school districts in the state.

  21. Collin says:

    While attending MSMS, it has become clear that we are all in fact struggling together. Whether it be Mastering Chemistry, lab reports, or essays; we all have some stress-forming factor in our lives. The ideal area for stress relieving is clean and comfortable. Minimal stress is not achieved in the scorching halls of AC-lacking Goen or the asbestos-ridden dorms. Our academic success is outstanding, so we should get better halls and academic buildings as a reward. Sure, we get by with the buildings we have. However, as we learned throughout our adolescence, you should not do just enough to get by. Imagine the potential productivity MSMS students would have if we were sitting in a clean, comfortable, 27 million dollar dorm. One could only imagine. However, we can’t just expect our representatives to just hand us our money. We have to show them that we need and deserve the increased budget. Now, we can’t have government officials come stay in Frazier, but we can take different forms of action. Words are powerful, if enough people contact our representatives about our needs, there’s a chance we could get action to take place. We could also encourage officials to tour our campus and see for themselves or even petition. We could try anything until we get clean vents and proper air conditioning.

  22. Catherine Boltz says:

    Perhaps help the legislatures see the advantages of giving MSMS more funding. We, as a school, have been able to accomplish a lot with a low budget. What would happen if MSMS were given more funding? Imagine how much more we could do with more funding.

  23. X says:

    It is very frustrating that the state government does not fund MSMS as much as it deserves. As mentioned, with fifteen National Merit Semifinalists and ranked 6th public high school in the nation, MSMS is more than qualified to receive the renovations it needs. One way the legislators could truly understand our needs is by spending a day in the life of an MSMS student. Walking through the hallways, attending classes, doing homework at the library, and sleeping in the dorms (just kidding, sort of). This way, they experience or can watch us experience the stress, pressure, and weight that we MSMS students carry. Through this experience, legislators hopefully can understand the difficult life of a student and make attempts to accommodate their needs by improving the school building and the dorms.

    Another thing that we can do is write a bill, a proposal, a petition, or publish our concerns on any public domain for more funding by expressing the issues that we have now, some of which include air conditioning failures, broken showers, drawers that fall out of the dressers and desks, inconsistent internet usage, false fire alarms, low lighting, and a jail cell for a bathroom. With these living conditions, on top of academics, what student can comfortably perform well? Having spoken with the governor and the lieutenant governor before about the ACT, I understand that they firmly support education. So, why not give the best school in the state a little more support?

  24. Katie Steil says:

    MSMS is a very high performing high school, as we all know. We are already the best in the state, what more can funding do for us? The state may see us as comfortable. Our dorms may not be the best, our wifi has its issues, our buildings have their issues, but we are the sixth-best public high school in the nation. How could we use the funding to grow? With proper maintenance of our dorms, we wouldn’t have to worry about fire alarms disturbing our sleep the night before any standardized test, or a broken air conditioning unit leaving the students with little sleep. With reliable internet, we could spend more time on our research papers. Updating our buildings could mean a cleaner life on campus, decreasing the outburst of illnesses we are all too familiar with. More funding could mean more outreach, meaning more students. We could use the funding to aid our clubs, many of which are STEM-based. We could use the funding to give back to the community. To get receive more funding, we could demonstrate what more funding can do by using grants and sponsorships. We are capable of more.

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