Ayers case moves forward; will we?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 11, 2000

Recently first-year Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced plans to bring the plaintiffs of a college desegregation case together to talk the issue out. In doing so, Musgrove is moving to finally solve the roadblock to moving our state’s higher education system to the next level.

In 1975, the original lawsuit was filed by the late Jake Ayers who felt his son — one of hundreds of students at the state’s historically black colleges — wasn’t getting the same educational opportunities as the students at the state’s predominantly white universities.

The case has gripped the state’s higher education system for more than 25 years.

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In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that higher education in our state was, indeed, segregated and kicked the issue back to a Mississippi federal court.

In the eight years since, the Legislature has tried to do a few things to right the long-standing wrongs, but it hasn’t been enough.

More must be done.

We hope Musgrove’s move helps get the issue solved, and when that happens, Alcorn State University will likely reap the benefits of the settlement after decades of inequality.

The one thought that kept running through our minds as we learned about Musgrove’s plan was: Why can’t we have a similar meeting with both sides of the court order that regulates the make-up and organization of the Natchez-Adams School District?

The school board has proposed a plan to reopen Braden School and reorganize the elementary schools in an effort to ease overcrowding. But so far, little progress has apparently been made.

Both the Ayers case and the Natchez-Adams case that prompted a federal court order had merit at the time they were filed and each ultimately proved that the system was segregated. But the intent of both was to fix the system not to cause decades of tension and turmoil.

And both should ultimately be solved because the entire issue centers on our future — the education of our children.