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Review of education agency's financial practices urged

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Dec. 30, 2001
One local legislator is hoping to shed light on how tax dollars for public education are being spent, and another thinks the cause of higher education needs fresh ideas.
With the special task force he is proposing, state Sen. Videt Carmichael, D-Meridian, hopes lawmakers can get a clearer picture of what happens to money after it is appropriated. His bill would create a task force to review the financial practices of the state Department of Education. It will be considered during the 2002 session of the Mississippi Legislature, which begins Jan. 8.
Under Carmichael's bill, the task force would consist of Dr. Richard Thomas, state superintendent of education, the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees, one local superintendent and a representative from the business community. Carmichael said the task force would make its report and recommendations during the 2003 session of the Legislature.
Carmichael, a former educator, is a member of the Senate Education Committee. He said he has met with various superintendents of education across the state, and they believe they could do more with their money if they had less state-level supervision.
Meanwhile, with a near-crisis mentality settling over university and community college campuses due to slashed budgets, Rep. Charles Young, D-Meridian, said higher education must be strengthened.
But, he said, money is only part of the problem. He said innovative approaches to education are also necessary and must include schools, teachers, administrators and parents, churches and other elements of community life.
Not the least of his concerns is that three Mississippi universities are searching for presidents. Two of them USM's Dr. Horace Fleming and MUW's Dr. Clyda Rent  left under fire. The third MSU's Dr. Malcolm Portera took a better-paying job heading up the University of Alabama System.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at