Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Columbus Dispatch. July 10, 2022.

Editorial: Humane societies need us to be humane too

Mississippi ranks seventh in the nation for pet ownership, according to the World Population Review.

Given what we continue to see at local human societies, our state probably ranks even higher in the number of irresponsible pet owners.

Last month, both the Columbus Lowndes Humane Society and the Oktibbeha County Humane Society took in about 200 unwanted pets each, putting enormous pressure on their space and resources.

In the first week of July alone, the Columbus facility has taken in more than 50 pets. Some pets are surrendered because their owners are no longer able to care for them, but the majority are strays. While neither facilities are “no-kill” shelters, both work hard to avoid euthanasia by placing a heavy emphasis on adoption. Depending on the shelter and whether it is a dog or cat, adoption fees typically run from as little as $30 to $170. The fee includes shots and spay/neuter, which is one of the very best reasons to adopt a pet from these facilities.

The proliferation of unwanted pets is particularly high in the South and Southwest. In fact, in the Northeast, adoptable pets are in such high demand that many shelters there bring adoptable pets in from the South. For 11 years now, Macon resident Jeanette Unruh has been working with a Massachusetts shelter to provide pets to New Englanders, transporting hundreds and hundreds of pets to Massachusetts.

Locally, the stubborn refusal to have pets spayed/neutered has created a crisis of unwanted pets. That’s beyond unfortunate. Having your pet spayed and neutered should be considered a basic responsibility for pet owners, just like food, water and shelter.

That so many pet owners refuse to accept that responsibility is disheartening. It borders on animal abuse when a pet is simply abandoned or dumped off at a shelter.

So, please, have your pet spayed/neutered. Not only will it help curb overpopulation, but studies show animals that have been spayed/neutered lead healthier, happier lives.

Also, if you’re in the market for a pet, please consider adopting from our shelters, which will provide you a healthy pet that has been spayed/neutered and support their mission.

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Tupelo Daily Journal. July 6, 2022.

Editorial: Next state superintendent a crucial choice

Mississippi must reassess education needs, goals before making hire.

Mississippi sits at a crossroads as it prepares to hire a new state superintendent of education. With the retirement of Dr. Carey Wright, who spent nine years as head of the Mississippi Department of Education, it is time to reassess our goals and decide exactly what we need from a state superintendent.

Clearly we have made some great strides under Wright based on national rankings and metrics. She oversaw the implementation of several new legislative programs and the launching of charter schools. And she was a passionate advocate for early childhood education and one-to-one technology initiatives.

While many of the initiatives started under Wright are vital to the future of our education system, we must also take a moment to ask ourselves, “What do we want our public education system to look like in the future, and what kinds of students do we want our schools to produce?”

We have seen marginal steps toward realigning our schools from the overwhelming focus of college-readiness to the dual missions of college-readiness and career-preparedness. These meager strides must increase drastically across the state, and that means an MDE that is driving that message.

For instance, the career coach program instituted in Tupelo and a few other districts has become a pilot program for other districts across the state. It should also become a standard approach to education in Mississippi.

Furthermore, we need a state superintendent who will drive bold innovations and isn’t afraid to break current molds to increase student success. This would include looking at year-round school years for more districts, using technology to provide higher-level instruction across district lines to allow more opportunities to students in smaller schools, and stepping away from an over-reliance on standardized testing as a means to judge academic success.

It is no secret that our current means of measuring the success of our schools is too dependent on standardized tests. The byproduct has been that teachers in certain grades do nothing but teach a standardized test all year. There is little learning going on in those classrooms, and the hoops through which schools jump to make their test scores look as good as possible is borderline dishonest.

We also need a superintendent who understands politics and the legislative process. Unfortunately, these are essential skills. It is not enough to be well versed — even a genius — in education policy. The state superintendent must be able to work with our legislative leadership to increase funding, secure support for crucial policies and maintain the political backing that will ensure he or she can do the job successfully.

The state Board of Education will send a clear message about the future of Mississippi public schools with its hire. We urge the members to ask difficult questions and make an honest assessment of their goals. This is a crucial decision that will reverberate for years.

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Greenwood Commonwealth. July 9, 2022.

Editorial: Judge Guilty Of Mind Reading

It’s easy to stand on principle when you disagree with a result. It’s much harder to do so when the result is desirable, but the means to get there are not.

That’s the dilemma we face with the ruling this past week by a state judge that allowed Mississippi’s nearly total ban on abortion to go into effect.

Debbra Halford, a chancery judge from Franklin County, was in a pickle. Mississippi had just taken a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade and rightfully returned to the states the authority to decide whether to allow abortion and under what conditions. It was assumed that in Mississippi this ruling would bring the nearly immediate end of surgical abortions and the closure of the state’s only abortion clinic.

There was one problem, though: a 1998 decision of the state Supreme Court that said the Mississippi Constitution provides women the right to an abortion. The operator of the lone abortion clinic hung its argument, and its bid to stay open, on that decision, claiming that subsequent state laws — which kicked in following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision — were invalid as long as that 1998 decision remained on the books.

Halford disagreed, saying that it was likely the state Supreme Court would reverse itself, just like the U.S. Supreme Court did 49 years after Roe v. Wade.

Halford might possess the power to read people’s minds, but if so, she should limit exercising that gift to parlor games, not employ it in the courtroom. The current makeup of the Mississippi Supreme Court may well believe that its 1998 ruling was bad law, but if so, the justices should be the ones saying so, not a lower court judge.

Halford probably knew her ruling would be appealed to the state Supreme Court either way she ruled, and the safe thing for her to do politically was to rule against the abortion clinic. It does, however, appear to be an abuse of judicial discretion. Lower court judges are supposed to apply what the appellate courts have said, not what they might say.

As eager as we are for the number of abortions in this state to be reduced and the lives of unborn children saved, it needs to be done through the correct means.

If there is no right to privacy, and thus no right to abortion, in the Mississippi Constitution, the state Supreme Court needs to reverse itself and say so. If such a right exists in state law, then the Legislature can go through the proper legal channels to remove it by placing a constitutional amendment before a vote of the people.

This may take longer than a judge’s mind-reading, but the result will be through a legal process that’s respected, rather than one that’s not.

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