February 23, 2015 Rotogram: 27

MSU Softball

Vann Stuedeman coaches the 13-1 Mississippi State University softball team. Joe Thompson will introduce her.

Next Week: MSU Football

Dan Mullen, MSU head football coach, will review the historic season and future prospects. Dave Boles will introduce him.

For the Record—February 16

Invocation and pledge:        Lewis Holloway

Attendance:                                          67.5%

Present — 102 (40 exempt, 1 honorary)

Absent — 80 (16 exempt, 11 honorary)

Makeup reported: Carey Hardin.

Guests: Visiting Rotarian was Bill Overstreet. Member guest was Robert Klinghail of Trish Cunetto. Guests of the club were Walker and Tricia Mattox, Thomas Berkery, Max Garzoni, RYE student, and James Carskadon, Starkville Daily News.

Meeting Notes

  • President Michelle reminded members that executive administrator applications are due by Feb. 28. Interested persons should submit a letter of interest and qualifications to her.
  • She recognized the Rotary Youth Exchange Student of the Week Walker Maddox, a senior at Starkville High. Active in track, cross country, and swim teams, the daughter of Kim and Sonny Maddox will attend the University of North Alabama on a cross country and track scholarship.
  • Representing the Starkville Soccer Association, Robert Leach received our $1,000 donation.
  • Nancy Hargrove accepted a $300 check for Starkville Reads.
  • Noting that dictionaries had been labeled and packaged, the president called for volunteers to help with distribution to the county’s third-graders.
  • Trey Breckenridge called for annual award nominations. Forms will be available through March.

Rotary Classic Rodeo

The eighth annual edition of our major fund raiser saw a record 304 rodeo contestants and a packed house Saturday night. Five riders were national rodeo title finalists.

Trey Breckenbridge, committee co-chair, said attendance and earnings statistics are still being compiled. Event profits fund next year’s community service donations.

“I’ve sat out there and applauded everybody who was part of it, but never really understood just how absolutely overwhelming it is and the amount of work that goes into it,” said President Michelle as she especially thanked Trey Breckenridge, John Forde, Marc McGee, Bricklee Miller and Zach Rowland.

It took about 80 volunteers to make it happen.

 Charity Stripe

March Madness is near and so is Charity Stripe. International Service Committee Chair Grant Arinder urged members to “take a shot for polio” by pledging a penny or two or three or a nickel for every free-throw made in the NCAA tournament.

He called for prize sponsors and noted that Carey Hardin has pledged a ride in his Stearman biplane as one prize.

Rotary and Taxes

Treasurer Jeff Read reports that for those who pay their dues with personal funds, the 2014 tax deductible portion of the club fees is $196.

K-12 Education Funding as a Political Kickball

February 16 — Educating the next generation of citizens is a critical and contentious issue. Local economies are depending more and more on a well-educated populace.

Patsy Brumfield, communications director of Better Schools, Better Jobs, a statewide initiative for full funding of kindergarten through 12th grade schools in Mississippi, laid out the issue before voters this year.

Saying that the current state constitutional provision implies funding public education “if we feel like it,” Brumfield explained that this fall’s ballot initiative would specify funding an adequate and efficient system.

Under provisions of the 1992 ballot initiative law, Mississippi citizens may call for a vote when they believe the legislature has failed to respond to a critical issue. Circuit clerks in all 82 counties have certified 121,691 signatures supporting Initiative 42.

The filing with the Secretary of State reads “The amendment will protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity through the 12th grade by amending Section 201 so that the state must provide and the legislature must fund an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.”

The issue focuses on the 17-year-old Mississippi Adequate Education Program. In only two budget years has the program had full legislative funding. Brumfield cited local examples with Starkville schools being short $10 million and Oktibbeha County schools short $2.4 million. In the past six years, the statewide shortfall has been $1.8 billion.

Mississippi was the nation’s sixth lowest funded school system at $8,971 per student. National average is $12,606.

MAEP funds teacher and other district employee salaries, retirement and insurance; textbooks and other instructional materials; and, basic operational costs (utilities, facility maintenance, etc.). Local districts fund the remainder.

In our area, schools employ 4,103 teachers and staff. Statewide, 144 districts account for 174,000 jobs.

Preceding the MAEP was the revolutionary Education Reform Act of 1982 that mandated:

  • Kindergartens for every school district;
  • Compulsory school attendance for the first time in state history;
  • The state’s first school accreditation system with teeth; and,
  • Teacher aides in the first three grades.

At present, K-12 education takes about 23 percent of the total state budget. When federal funds are included, K-12 makes up about 16.5 percent of the state budget.

Brumfield pointed out that state revenues from 2012 into 2015 are up more than $598 million while MAEP funding is up only $49 million.

“Full funding will not raise taxes,” she said. “The state already has the money.”

“Educational attainment remains a key determinant of who is employed and who is not, who earns a good living and who does not,” she said.

According to the MDC 2014 report State of the South, for every 100 Mississippi ninth graders:

  • 39 don’t graduate high school;
  • 13 graduate on time, but don’t attend college;
  • 18 that go directly to college are out after a year;
  • 14 stay in college, but don’t graduate on time; and,
  • 16 graduate college within 6 years.

Commenting on the bipartisan dimensions of the issue, Brumfield quoted Republican Sondra Odom, Pearl School Board president who said, “This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is a survival issue for Mississippi.”

With the initiative on the November state election ballot, Brumfield said there have been some amazing comments from legislators who have complicated the process with an amendment to the initiative.

She reported “One told me ‘We don’t like being told what to do.’ Another said, ‘You people don’t understand how the Legislature works. It’s complicated.’”

At present, no one knows just exactly how the ballot will read. That information will be made clear when the Secretary of State finalizes the ballots.

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