Governor: Education support key to development

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; Increased funding to &045; and better testing and accountability for &045; Mississippi’s education system continues to be the key to attracting and retaining industries.

That was Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s message to more than 200 people who gathered at a Monday luncheon at the Ramada Hilltop to hear his keynote speech.

&uot;We need good jobs Šso our children do not have to go somewhere else to put down roots and build families,&uot; Musgrove said. &uot;When you see a community succeeding economically, you see a community that has strong support for its public schools.&uot;

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&uot;That does not mean every person in the community sends his children to public schools. But you have to invest in public schools because that is the workforce companies look to.&uot;

Mississippi is rising in the ranks of teacher pay, and its most recent budget devotes 62 percent of state funding to education, including a $200 million package to help retain university professors.

It was the first state to put a computer with Internet service in every classroom and first to give nationally certified teachers their own raises, Musgrove said.

Test-preparation firm The Princeton Review has rated the state sixth in the nation in terms of accountability for education &045; up from 50th three years ago.

Economic times are tough throughout the nation thanks to a recession, Wall Street woes and legislation like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, Musgrove said.

At the same time, however, Mississippi has brought in billions of dollars of economic investment and tens of thousands jobs, including the landing of a Nissan plant in Madison County.

&uot;Site Selection,&uot; an economic development trade journal, ranked Mississippi among the top 10 states in terms of retaining and attracting industry, Musgrove noted.

One southwest Mississippi official asked Musgrove, during a Monday morning meeting on the economy, what the secret is to attracting new industries.

While tax incentives and the like are important, Musgrove answered, strengthening public education is even more important.

&uot;You have to have a skilled, trained, qualified workforce,&uot; Musgrove said.