By NEMS Daily Journal

Support level funding for our public schools
Our state’s public K-12 students need your help. The Mississippi House recently passed HB 1494 providing level funding for K-12. Level funding means our schools will receive the same amount of money from the state this coming fiscal year. The House version is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee where cuts of $65 million are being suggested by some. Even if the Senate adopts the House version of this funding bill, public schools will still be underfunded by more than $200 million based on Mississippi’s Adequate Education Program, the 1997 law guaranteeing all Mississippi children access to a quality education.
Our state cannot continue shortchanging its schoolchildren and expect business and industry to locate here. We must make funding education our top priority, even in these austere times. Please act now; send a message to the Mississippi Senate to support HB 1494 and stand by our children and teachers. Call the Senate switchboard at (601) 359-3244, provide your name and hometown, and leave a message for your senator to make education in Mississippi top priority. You may also go to www.Mississippi.gov and click the Mississippi State Legislature homepage to find out how to contact your senator by e-mail and U.S. postal mail. Please act now. Let your voice be heard in Jackson before it’s too late.
Ann Blair Huffman

Tupelo can do what’s needed for its future
It was good to hear that specifics will be forthcoming from committees formed under the leadership of CDF to explore the mayor’s revitalization plan.
I understand that something must be done to retain the middle class homeowner in Tupelo. And the list of committee members is impressive. And I think that action must be taken as soon as possible.
I have witnessed this type of situation in many cities in Mississippi and other states. There are things that can be done.
I have two comments:
First, there is not one person from any of the very active neighborhood associations on any of the four committees. Tupelo is recognized as a leader in these very effective groups. There is bound to be valuable input from them.
Second, Tupelo already has a comprehensive plan in place called the 2025 Comprehensive Plan. It is already finished and approved by the City Council. This discussion should have never been an “either-or” debate about building roads as opposed to neighborhood revitalization. We can do both.
Let’s move forward and build on the very effective leadership that Tupelo has provided for 140 years. I suggest that the City Council find a way to present both in the May election.
Nathan Duncan

Armour should not use ARC post as a pulpit
After reading Mike Armour’s diatribe against labor unions, and particularly the United Auto Workers (Feb. 26), I wondered where the disclaimer was that probably should have been at the end of his column. Surely, Mr. Armour is not using his position with the Appalachian Regional Commission to further his anti-organized labor agenda.
Or, is he?
Since Mr. Armour seems hell-bent on stopping the UAW, I went to the ARC web site and read every word of policy, mission and even the United States Code Title 40 Subtitle IV that outlines how the organization operates. At no point in all those words does it state that ARC’s mission is to prevent workers from organizing or otherwise hinder a union’s representation of its members.
The term “labor organization” is mentioned once, in Sec. 14506 (Regional Skills Partnerships). Labor organizations are listed as one of four entities to be represented on consortiums “established to serve one or more industries in a specified geographic area” for the purpose of establishing job skills training programs. The other three entities to be represented are businesses, state/local governments and educational institutions in that particular geographic area.
That hardly seems like governmental exclusion of organized labor.
Apparently, Mr. Armour’s opposition to unions is not official ARC policy. In the future, he might want to make clear that his personal opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his employer.
C. Richard Cotton

Community colleges need level FY12 funding
A recent editorial column in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal got it right by calling for level funding to support instruction and operations for Mississippi’s community colleges. In addition to support for instruction and operations, funding for community colleges also affects the amount students pay and ultimately borrow to attend community college in this part of the state.
The National Center of Education Statistics – which tracks the number of students taking out federal student loans – reports that 42 percent of undergraduates at Itawamba Community College needed a federal student loan to pay for the costs associated with attending classes during the 2008-09 school year. On average, Itawamba students went into federal student loan debt of $5,673 for one year of course work – the second highest average federal student loan amount among all of the community colleges in the state.
As community colleges turn, out of necessity, to tuition increases to make ends meet under current funding conditions, students in this part of the state may need larger loans to pursue postsecondary education and eventually job opportunities with higher wages. The effect of larger loans could ultimately limit who attends college, who goes into certain professions and ultimately who can succeed under the weight of juggling bills, family responsibilities and loan repayment after graduation.
As decisions are made for the FY2011-12 budget year, investing in Mississippi’s post-secondary institutions and keeping community college education affordable should be a priority. Maintaining affordability within the colleges remains one of the most important elements of solving the state’s long term struggles with poverty alleviation.
Sarah Welker
Mississippi Economic Policy Center

‘Ole Miss’ surely remains on correctness hit list
I have contemplated writing this letter for several months now, and rather than standing on the sidelines and complaining, I felt that I needed to address the issue so many people are talking about. This has to do with the way the University of Mississippi handled the elimination of the Colonel Rebel as our mascot.
The decision to remove Colonel Rebel as our mascot was not the result of an honest vote by the majority of students or alumni, but an arbitrary one made by the powers to be who were more concerned with being politically correct than they were about tradition or the feelings of alumni, etc. The students were allowed to vote on whether or not they wanted a mascot, but the choice of Colonel Reb was not an option. A group of students were assigned to come up with proposals for a mascot. They were prohibited from including the Colonel Rebel as an option. One only had to look at the list they eventually developed to see that this was not an entirely genuine effort to develop a meaningful replacement. After a feigned effort to get alumni, season ticket holders, students, etc. to vote on the options put forth, it was narrowed down to three candidates.
You would think the powers to be at the University of Mississippi might have learned something from the November 2010 election, but apparently they are even more arrogant than the government who ignored the wishes of the people. If the powers to be were concerned about how the mascot impacted minorities, why make it a black bear.
One of the reasons I have heard for changing the mascot is that some players would not play at Ole Miss because of the mascot. We have gotten quality players on paper, and the powers to be might attribute this to retiring the Colonel Rebel. Many have failed to live up to expectations. I would take an athlete of lesser talent but who had heart, will to win, and good morals over these prima donnas any day.
It’s not too late to reverse this ill advised decision. This one act would make a tremendous difference in fan support, as many of those who have vowed not to ever buy season tickets again or support the university financially would quickly return to the fold.
Another fact that seems to escape the powers to be is that Colonel Rebel was dressed in red and blue, not the gray of the confederacy. His attire is that of a Southern gentleman much like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken Fame. The elimination of Colonel Rebel is only the first step. Next they will find a way to do away with Ole Miss and the Rebels.
Samuel E. Fleming III, Ph.D.

Rev. Phelps can’t claim to speak for the Lord God
I want to know who the h— the Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church thinks he is trying to speak for God. Don’t they know they are sinners just like everyone else, or do they think they are so high and mighty that they can speak for God and shout hate-filled words at a soldier’s funeral procession.
To me, they are despicable and all churches, especially the Baptists, should condemn them and let them know they only hurt themselves as God will condemn them and not the soldier they are bad mouthing.
This is the second time I’ve seen this on T.V. and it really gets me upset to think that a so-called church can speak for God.
Wicked people, living under the power of Satan, will hate the Lord Jesus, his followers and their righteous deeds.
There is nothing more tragic than a gift of God which is misused for selfish or unspiritual purposes.
Juanita Horstman

Taxpayer protests idea of college tuition plan
I am a taxpayer in Tupelo, and I am sounding off about having taxes raised to send students to college who can’t afford it. It’s bad enough that most of my property taxes go to a school tax, and I don’t even use the school system. Now we are going to help them go to college? Parents brought all these kids here. They should be responsible for an education, not taxpayers who have no children.
Why are homeowners moving to the county? Look at where our tax money is going. Downtown to Fair Park and fixing fancy bike lanes. Who rides a bike downtown? I’ve never seen a single person down there on a bike. I think the people of Tupelo should take their stand on where our tax money goes. Look at our crummy animal shelter. The city should use our tax money as of now for a decent pound, so people wouldn’t have to beg for donations and food for them. By the way, to the man who wrote the letter in the Feb. 20 Forum, the new law concerning the abuse of animal cruelty being made a felony only concerns dogs and cats, not farm animals.
Rhonda Porter