Former Rep. Bennett Malone dies

Former State Rep. Bennett Malone passed away Sunday morning, a spokeswoman for Speaker Philip Gunn confirmed. Malone, a Democrat from Carthage, resigned from the Legislature in 2015 after serving 36 years. He represented District 45, which includes Leake, Neshoba, Rankin and Scott counties. He served as chairman of the House Corrections Committee during the final years of his legislative career. Speaker Gunn was not immediately available for comment Sunday morning.

More Mississippi students take and pass AP tests

The Mississippi Department of Education announced an increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses as well as an increased number scoring a level 3 or higher on the tests. In the 2016-2017 school year, 14.2 percent more students took AP exams than in the prior school year. In addition, the number of students scoring a 3 or higher — the level required to earn college credit — increased by almost 20 percent. Among minority students, the number scoring a 3 or higher increased 28 percent. “The AP experience is beneficial to students because it exposes them to college-level material and helps them develop the study skills that are needed to be successful in college,” said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

Treasurer, Attorney General launch $2.5 million financial literacy program

A new financial literacy effort will be taking place in schools and communities over the next two years thanks to $2.5 million from the state’s legal settlements with three credit rating agencies and two financial institutions. The program, called Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents, will focus on expanding teacher training from kindergarten through high school levels, provide incentives to teachers and schools to incorporate financial education into their students’ studies, support teachers with learning experiences for their students in and out of the classroom, and finally, build a financial wellness network and implement financial coaching through community leaders. Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents is a partnership among Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Attorney General Jim Hood, the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE) and the Mississippi State University Extension service. Fitch has long touted the importance of financial literacy and education. She launched the public-private partnership Treasurer’s Education About Money (TEAM) into Mississippi high schools and middle schools three years ago, which resulted in training of more than 1,200 teachers.

State fights for dismissal of SPLC lawsuit

The state is arguing that a federal court should dismiss a lawsuit recently filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center charging that the state has failed to follow the conditions under the 1869 Readmission Act. According to filings by lawyers with Attorney General Jim Hood’s office, the lawsuit should be dismissed because the basic issue raised by the SPLC is not a legal but rather a political one and violates the statute of limitations and the Eleventh Amendment, among other reasons. The Eleventh Amendment deals with each state’s sovereign immunity and prohibits the federal courts from hearing certain lawsuits against states. The Readmission Act, passed by Congress, spelled out the conditions under which Mississippi could return to the United States after secession, including that “the constitution of Mississippi shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”

However, a new Mississippi constitution in 1890 and subsequent amendments to the constitution until 1987 violated that condition, the SPLC claims. As a result, the condition and performance of majority black schools in the state is subpar to white schools. The lawsuit points out that 13 of the state’s 19 F-rated school districts are more than 95 percent African American.