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Barbour proposes extension service' for education

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
Sept. 4, 2003
JACKSON Republican gubernatorial nominee Haley Barbour said Wednesday that Mississippi should have an "extension service" to help parents aid their children with school work.
Barbour compared his idea to the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, which offers advice for farmers and families. He spoke about the plan in a news conference at the Eudora Welty Library.
I propose a Mississippi Education Extension Service that will help get families back involved in education and will provide families that need it with instruction and support to help them play their appropriate roles in their children's educations,'' Barbour said.
He estimated the state could spend $10 million or less a year for an educational extension service, perhaps working with Head Start, the state Department of Education or other existing programs.
Until Wednesday, Barbour had offered few specific ideas about public elementary and secondary schools, other than to say that stronger discipline is needed in classrooms.
General election
Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, meets incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove and three third-party candidates in the Nov. 4 general election.
At stake is the state's highest elected official, a job that pays $122,160 a year.
Musgrove was unavailable for comment.
A news release issued by his campaign office criticized Barbour's education plans as lacking substance and creating a new bureaucracy with his proposed Education Extension Service.
Before becoming governor nearly four years ago, Musgrove served four years as lieutenant governor and eight years as a state senator from Batesville. He served as Senate Education Committee chairman.
Education funding
As lieutenant governor in 1997, Musgrove helped push for adoption of the Adequate Education Act which overhauled public school funding and was designed to give every school district enough money to meet midlevel accreditation standards.
Lawmakers overrode a veto of then-Gov. Kirk Fordice, a Republican, to put the Adequate Education Act into law.
Barbour on Wednesday said he would not change the substance of the Adequate Education Act, but he thinks the title "sends the wrong message."
In 2000, his first year as governor, Musgrove signed Mississippi's largest ever teacher pay raise package.
The six-year, $338 million plan was designed to get Mississippi off the bottom of national teacher salary rankings, but Barbour said the plan has fallen short of expectations.
Teacher pay
Barbour said he would honor the final years of the teacher pay plan if he's elected governor, but he can't promise that Mississippi will meet the Southeastern average in teacher pay because that's a moving target.
Barbour also said the state needs to offer better incentives to recruit new teachers, including offering more ways for people who don't major in education to become certified as educators.
He said the Mississippi Department of Education should ease paperwork requirements for high-performing schools.
And he said the state should expand Head Start by including children younger than 4 and offering more educational content.
Congressional Republicans are trying to give states more control over Head Start, a federally funded preschool program for poor children. Barbour said the federal government should keep control of Head Start.