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.

Teacher union leader: Stand up for Jackson Public Schools

Jackson residents were urged Friday to keep fighting for the Jackson Public Schools despite the “shadow” of a state takeover. The message came from Tyrone Hendrix, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Educators and a former city councilman Tyrone Hendrix in comments at Koinonia Coffee House about the consequences of a state takeover and what the community can do to support the district. The Commission on School Accreditation and State Board of Education both determined last week that an extreme emergency situation exists in the school district that jeopardized the safety and educational interests of the students. It’s now up to Gov. Phil Bryant to decide whether to declare a state of emergency so the state can take over the district. Hendrix thanked Bryant for taking time to deliberate over the decision, and reminded the audience that the community needs to continue to band together and support the district by signing a petition against a takeover or sending a letter to the governor.

Lawmakers talk school takeover process at budget hearings

Legislative leaders Thursday added their voice to questions about school district takeovers in the wake of an Mississippi Department of Education recommendation that the state take over Jackson Public Schools. House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, asked State Superintendent Carey Wright to clarify how the process of taking over a school district works. Wright and State Board of Education Chair Rosemary Aultman and State Superintendent Carey Wright addressed the joint legislative budget committee to review the Department of Education’s budget request for fiscal year 2019. Last week, both the Commission on School Accreditation and state board determined that an extreme emergency situation exists in the Jackson district that jeopardized the safety and educational interests of the students. A number of parents of Jackson Public Schools students have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the state takeover from proceeding.

JPS gives community power to rename schools named for Confederates

As questions swirl about whether parents had enough say in the fate of the Jackson Public School District, the school board took action Tuesday night in an effort to ensure parents have control over at least one thing in their district — renaming three schools currently named after Confederate leaders. The JPS Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion to give the PTA and community the option to rename Jefferson Davis, George and Lee elementary schools before the 2018-19 school year. The schools are named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Brig. Gen. James Zachariah George, and president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis. During the 2016-17 school year (the most recent year for which enrollment figures have been finalized) JPS’ student population was 96 percent black.

Attorney General investigates opioid distributors

As part of Mississippi’s multi-pronged approach to combating the opioid addiction, Attorney General Jim Hood announced Tuesday an investigation into three national opioid distributors. Hood, who joins attorneys general from 32 other states in this effort, said he’s looking into whether distributors Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKeeson Medical Supply illegally marketed, sold or distributed prescription opioids. “A distributor of drugs is required to notify DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) if they’re shipping a whole bunch of drugs to a pharmacy somewhere, like in the state of Mississippi, which is in unusual numbers. They have a duty with suspicious transactions just like the banks do,” Hood said. “So now we’re checking into whether they have done their duty under the law.”

Conversation with author Kathleen Wickham and Jerry Mitchell Thursday at Lemuria

Kathleen Wickham and Jerry Mitchell will engage in conversation about Wickham’s “We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss” at Lemuria bookstore Sept. 21 at 5 p.m.

Read the Story from The Oxford Eagle Here. Read Mississippi Today’s coverage of the Mississippi Book Festival, where Wickham discussed her book on the Mississippi History panel:

Heritage and history afford Mississippi unique place in literary landscape

Continental Tire to sponsor Blues Marathon

Continental Tire is rolling to the rescue of the Mississippi Blues Marathon. The future of the race, which draws runners from around the world, was in doubt after its previous sponsor, BlueCross & BlueShield of Mississippi, pulled out earlier this year. This year’s race, scheduled for January, was cancelled because of bad weather. John Noblin, the Blues Marathon race director, said Continental’s sponsorship demonstrates the company, which is building a manufacturing facility in western Hinds County, is serious about “being a respected corporate and community citizen in both Mississippi and the Jackson area.” “The reputation of the Continental Tire brand worldwide will be great for the continued growth of the Blues Marathon,” Noblin said through a media release.

New diploma options begin in 2018-19 for 9th graders

The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new set of graduation options beginning with 9th graders in the 2018-2019 school year. When those students graduate as high school seniors it will be with a new traditional diploma with new course requirements. The Mississippi Department of Education also will offer diploma endorsements in academic, distinguished academic and career and technical categories. Students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to earn a traditional diploma will have the option of an alternate diploma, officials said. The board did not vote on a certificate of attendance option.

First student earns degree through Complete 2 Compete

Debra Harris of Grenada is the first student in Mississippi to earn a degree through the Complete 2 Compete Initiative. “I was speechless,” Harris said. Harris was awarded a bachelor’s degree in general studies with minors in English, business administration and computer science last month from the University of Mississippi. Harris hopes to use her degree to build a career in adult literacy. After Harris began studies at UM in 1977, her college career was cut short when she joined the Navy.