Barbour plans education summit

By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
July 30, 2004
PHILADELPHIA Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt is expected to lead the first of three statewide meetings this fall where educators, business leaders and government officials will study new education initiatives.
Gov. Haley Barbour, who announced the meetings Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair, plans to compile a package of proposals for the state Legislature to consider in January. Many, he said, could cost nothing.
Barbour compared the education meetings two statewide symposiums and a final education summit to a statewide business summit he sponsored in Jackson before the 2004 Legislature opened in January.
And, he said, Hunt is the perfect choice to lead the first meeting tentatively set for Sept. 28. Hunt, a Democrat who served four terms as governor, gained a reputation for being a staunch supporter of public education.
Among other things as governor, Hunt helped set up a reading program, reduced class size, created dropout prevention programs and established the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Barbour's speech
Barbour, making his first appearance at the 115-year-old fair since he won office in November, first mentioned his education plans during a late-morning speech under the tin roof of the Founders Square pavilion.
A raucous, partisan crowd of more than 300 people listened as Barbour, a Republican and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, spent the first part of his speech bashing the Democratic presidential ticket.
The governor also outlined his successes from the 2004 Legislature. And he talked about his plans to improve education what he called "the No. 1 quality of life issue in Mississippi and the No. 1 economic development issue."
At least two key state House Democrats state Reps. Randy "Bubba" Pierce of Leakesville and Cecil Brown of Jackson said they welcomed Barbour's input and thought the meetings and summit were good ideas.
Pierce's committee is expected to begin work next week on an in-depth study of public education, including finances and policy. The goal: prepare a comprehensive education proposal for the 2005 Legislature.
Brown agrees
Brown, an Education Committee member who will head efforts studying school finances, agreed with Pierce: "If the governor will get on board with us and we'll get on board with him, I'm excited."
Even some fairgoers liked Barbour's plans.
Everett Cole of Philadelphia, who served on the Philadelphia school board in the 1970s, said funding is a serious concern for schools. He said he disagrees with cutting arts programs just to save money.
Barbara Rooks-Jackson of Jackson said she likes Barbour's plan to involve educators, business leaders and elected officials because he will "get a broad perspective on how everyone from all walks of life feel."
Barbour told fairgoers that the classroom teacher is the most important part of public schools. While he doesn't advocate spending less money on schools, he said, "we must get the biggest bang for our buck."

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