In Tuesday’s Economic Symposium hosted by the Madison County Business League and the Madison County Economic Development Authority, it was repeated often: education drives economic development.
Education, said experts including Dr. Phil Pepper, the state’s chief economist, and Dr. Marty Wiseman, who heads the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, is why Madison County is thriving when other counties in the state are hemorrhaging population.
Public education determines the quality of the local work force and the economic level of the county’s future population. In Madison County, the county school district’s quality has been a magnet drawing home buyers to the area for decades.
For this reason, it is distressing that local schools may be losing staff members due to budget cuts at the state level. This works against the county’s goals of improving its schools as well as the goals of the state to increase the education and skills of Mississippians and bring more higher-paying technologically sophisticated jobs here. Growing school districts such as Madison County are hit harder with cuts because they have an increasing number of students each year. The district will literally be having to do more with less.
The situation leaves few good choices. Given the state’s economy, a tax increase to avoid a reduction in force wouldn’t be a choice many in the county would make. What’s left is finding ways to limit staff reductions as much as possible and to lobby for more K-12 funding for Mississippi’s schools next year.
Annie Oeth, Editor Madison County Herald- May 6, 2010