Ole Miss chancellor at fair: Refocus on education

Dan JonesBy Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

PHILADELPHIA – University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones told Neshoba County Fairgoers Wednesday that the country and state are struggling because “the focus” on public education has been lost.

Jones spoke Wednesday on the first of two days of political speeches under the tin-roofed pavilion on Founders’ Square in the middle of the historic fairgrounds.

Fair organizers took the unprecedented step of inviting university presidents to speak on what is a slow year at the fair because no elections are scheduled. Little news was made and the crowd was much smaller than in election years.

Speakers touched on familiar themes. Many expressed opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, lambasted big government and praised gun ownership.

“We need to kill Obamacare and focus on improving access to medical care and reducing costs,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. “That’s one reason I support the new medical school at Ole Miss and nursing school at Southern Miss.”

Attorney General Jim Hood, Mississippi’s only statewide elected Democrat, as he often does, highlighted his office’s effort to combat Internet crime – this time federal laws that he said exempt from prosecution companies that facilitate human sex trafficking.

“The Internet has opened so much good, but it also has caused so much pain,” Hood said.

Jones urged fairgoers to support public education from the pre-kindergarten to university level. He said that should encompass political support, volunteerism and financial aid.

“We fell behind as we lost our focus on the importance of public education giving everyone the opportunity for the great American dream,” said Jones. His counterpart at Mississippi State University, President Mark Keenum, will speak today.

Auditor Stacey Pickering said his office is demanding accountability in all aspects of local and state government.

He said he worked with both Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation requiring a student to be in school at least 60 percent of the day before the state would provide compensation for that student.

He said his office had recovered more than $19 million in misspent funds during the recently completed fiscal year.

Reeves joked that he was upset that because of his first name – Tate – people often referred to his three young daughters as “Tater Tots,” but they also refer to his top Senate allies as “Tater Tots.” He said his girls are much cuter than the Senate leadership.

But acknowledging the nickname became the theme of his speech. “You might be a Tater Tot if you agree we should fight wasteful spending and excessive government debt,” he said.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com