Sixty years later the debate continues

While searching our archives for the story referenced in the Letter to the Editor on the following page, we came across an editorial by the late Publisher and Editor of this paper, Erle Johnston Jr., concerning the state of education in Mississippi. We found it very interesting that some 60 years later Mississippi Legislators have yet to settle the issue of adequate education funding in this state. Here’s what Johnston had to say, in part, in the January 15, 1958 edition.

We have received word on a good authority that Scott County Representative Elvin Livingston is definitely opposed to a statewide nine-month school term.

This means Mr. Livingston is not in favor of helping bring Mississippi education nearer to the level of other states. At present, Mississippi is the only state in the nation still clinging to the ancient eight-month school.

A nine-month term not only would raise teacher salaries in county schools, but also in separate school districts, like Forest, which operate on nine-month schedules.

Under terms of a bill introduced in the legislature, the state would pay the entire cost of the nine months, as far as the minimum program is concerned.

There would be one-eighth more for teacher salaries, transportation, teacher retirement, instructional supplies, and the other factors. No increase is mentioned for county  administrative costs.

In Forest, based on this year’s budget, the school would receive an additional $17, 907 a year without any increase in the local contribution.

Forest teachers would get an automatic raise of $300, the same raise applied to teachers in eight-months schools if the terms are extended another month.

In the $17,907 that Forest would receive, $844 is for local administration, $1,668 for transportation, $1,519 for supplies and other costs, $698 for social security and retirement, and $13,180 for teacher salaries.

All this money would be available without any increase in local funds and of course without any increase in taxes... An increase in teachers’ salaries alone will not do the job that is needed for education in Scott County, or in Forest.

Mr. Livingston has announced he favors an increase in teacher salaries, which is commendable, but we believe an extension of the term would give the teachers as much of an increase as the legislators would approve on a straight basis.

Patrons in Morton, where the biggest eight month school in the county is located, have expressed approval of a nine-month term.

The county school board has announced that no county school can be given a ninth month unless the entire cost is borne by the state.

To extend schools to nine months without state funds would require double the amount of local contribution and the tax rate already is near the 25 mill limit set by statute. This situation exists all over the state.

The extra month would require a state appropriation of $13 million for the biennium, if every school switched to a nine-month basis. Under the minimum program, the same money would be divided into $10 million from the state and $3 million from local sources.

A salary increase alone would not help the other expense factors in the schools and if the minimum program is increased, it would mean additional local taxation.

We think Mr. Livingston should reconsider his attitude on the nine-month term. We don’t want to see our Scott County representative, who is doing a good job, help hold back an opportunity for real progress.

Our state senator, Claude Norman, of Hickory, favors state-wide nine month schools. How about it Mr. Livingston?

Some things, we think, never change. Like, we don’t want to see our Scott County representatives, who are doing a good job, help hold back an opportunity for real progress.

How about it boys?