This week I’ve been bombarded with news of what our state legislature might be up to. None of the talk about what might be happening to education in Mississippi due to budget cuts sounds good. As someone who has just compared my own before and after pay stubs, believe me, the realities are all too pressing, all too close to home. Still, I am as distressed by the proposal to move the Mississippi School for the Arts away from Brookhaven in order to merge it with the Mississippi School for Math and Science as I am about cuts that impact my own salary.
The news does not sound good. I hoped it would never go this far, but the bill is through committee and up for consideration by the full House.
Please people, get on the phone to your local legislators, and ask them to vote against a bill that would undo all the hard work and money that have already gone into our Arts School.
Keeping the campus in Brookhaven is the right thing for the students, for the town, and for the state. We’ve never needed to value arts education and talented, creative young people more than we do now as a state. Times are hard, yes, and they will only get harder if we are not producing our own native talent to compete in a rapidly changing economy.
Have you read Thomas Friendman’s The World is Flat? Have you read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind? It isn’t just the artists anymore who are talking about how important art is to education. More and more, what we need to keep a business afloat and to keep a state afloat are creative thinkers.
We have a wonderful place to nurture the best of our creative youth already established in Brookhaven. Let’s not do irreparable harm now to one of the best investments we’ve made in our own future.
The School for the Arts needs to remain its own entity because its mission is unique to the students it serves. It does not share a vision or a purpose with the School for Math and Science. The two will not help each other by merging. In fact, both could be harmed by blurring their focuses.
This is not the same sort of move that we have made in school consolidations in the past in which rival county high schools are merged to save administrative costs. This bill proposes moving the school to the other end of the state. It would be an enormous blow to Brookhaven, killing off much needed jobs and leaving historic property abandoned. It would also damage not just separate sporting identities but separate educational identities.
These two schools educate the brightest and most talented of our youth. They deserve the best from us. They are the future of Mississippi. To cut what we are doing for them now is to say we’re okay with the prospect of just continuing as we have been, always coming in last, always falling more and more behind. Don’t let that happen, Mississippi.