When John Bel Edwards became governor of Louisiana in 2015, the economy was so bad that he floated the idea of shutting down the football programs at public universities.
That got people’s attention. As the result of eight years of tax cuts under the previous governor, Bobby Jindal, the state faced a mid-year shortfall of $850 million. Gov. Edwards convinced the state legislature to approve a 1% increase in the sales tax, and to rescind some of Jindal’s cuts, as a means of making the government solvent. Results have been good–although a sunset clause in the sales tax will result in another massive shortfall if it isn’t brought back in the next session.
Nonetheless, Gov. Edwards has a gift for seeing what his citizens want, prioritizing space in the budget for those things, and making them realities. It cost significant political capital, but he made sure that Louisiana expanded Medicaid. He has done what he can to make Louisiana’s major industries better stewards of the environment. Most recently, he announced that the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, would have funding for a $27 million dormitory that can house approximately 370 students.
I am delighted for my alma mater. I’m also extremely jealous. I wonder what it would take for Mississippi to make a similar investment in the well-being of MSMS. Hooper hasn’t been given more than ad hoc repairs since my arrival in 2004. Return vents are clogged with two decades of grit; ceiling tiles are discolored; central air and heat are as suspect here as they are in the dorms. And the dorms, of course, are in worse shape. Not Mary Wilson bad, perhaps, but bad nonetheless. Isn’t it ironic that the best school in the state–the sixth-best in the nation–has a smaller budget than many C- and D-rated districts around the state?
Last week, we learned that LSMSA had seven national merit semi-finalists–not quite half the number we had at MSMS. Perhaps Mississippi should commit $54 million to the renovations we need so desperately. One could make the argument that we’ve accomplished twice as much.
So, here’s my question for student bloggers: other than getting legislators to (try to) sleep in your dorms or pass one of your classes, how can we get them to prioritize the needs that we have?