I commend our state Legislature for several things: Finally ending the election of school supervisors, balancing the budget, expanding charter schools, and repealing the franchise tax.
Our educational system, like everything in the world, needs competition to thrive. How good would a football team be without competitors?
Charter schools give students stuck in failing school districts a chance to escape. The new legislation allows students to cross school district lines to attend a charter school. Over time, this could be a big change in the Delta and other rural areas.
I had a chance to visit Reimagine Prep in south Jackson off McDowell Road with Leland Speed. The ever-enthusiastic Leland is pumped up about charter schools and Re-imagine. His enthusiasm is infectious. How we need more Leland Speeds in this world!
I was enormously impressed with Reimagine Prep and its principal Christina McDonald and her staff. They are located in the old St. Therese Catholic School building. There are about 100 students in just one grade, fifth.
I sat in on several classes. The teachers have a completely different way of teaching that engages every student in the room. They use clapping, hand gestures, chants, songs. This goes on constantly. Zero dull moments.
There are no teachers’ desks. The teachers are moving around constantly, calling on students randomly. It’s called “active listening technique.” “You’ve got to hold their attention. You can’t let them daydream,” one teacher told me.
It works. They are turning lives around. It could turn Jackson around. The school is expanding to more grades. They start small, build a culture and then expand. This fall they will expand to the old Broadmoor Baptist Church building on Northside Drive.
Other charter schools are expanding. If they succeed, 10 percent of Jackson schoolchildren will be in charter schools in three years. In New Orleans, more than 90 percent of schoolchildren are in charter schools.
As Leland Speed says, “It affirms that these children can learn. I have been involved in more do-good things than I can remember, but never have I seen one that has more impact than this. We can show you results in four and a half months.”
Of course, these charter schools take money and students away from Jackson Public Schools. JPS doesn’t like this.
In fact, nobody likes competition. Wouldn’t we all like to rest on our laurels? But if you want excellence, then you have to quit whining and compete.
I picked up my Clarion-Ledger the other morning to see a front page editorial with the headline, “Stop the Madness.” The editorial complained about the Legislature repealing the state franchise tax over the next 10 years while money was tight.
According to reports published by Mississippi’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, you may wonder what madness the newspaper was referring to. Seems to me the madness is never-ending government spending.
In real dollars, adjusted for population growth, the state general fund budget is 38 percent higher than it was in 1990. Total state spending, which include federal grants and special funds, is more than double 1990 spending, even after adjusting for inflation and population growth.
The franchise tax is poorly named. It’s not a tax on franchise businesses, it’s a tax on capital for all companies domiciled in Mississippi. Only 18 states have such a tax and five of those states are in the process of repealing the tax.
The tax is unfair to Mississippi-based companies. If you are an out-of-state company, domiciled in one of the 37 states without the tax, you have an unfair advantage. That’s just not right.
The state Legislature wants to attract capital and jobs to Mississippi. As Ronald Reagan noted, if you want less of something, tax it. The tax is a direct headwind to job growth.
Rather than hand out gargantuan tax breaks to German and Japanese tire companies, how about creating a level playing field for the real job creators in our state – our own homegrown industries and employers?
True job growth will come naturally if our state creates a positive, fair business climate and invests in basic infrastructure. The free market works. Gradually repealing the franchise tax is a step in the right direction. Kudos to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
Now if they could just have the gumption to raise the gas tax to maintain our roads.
Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.