Editorials

This is not the secret to success for Mississippi

The Columbus Dispatch

We agree with Gov. Phil Bryant. An open government is a better government.

But that’s not always the way government, particularly Mississippi government, works. Too often, government officials’ knee-jerk reaction favors secrecy. Too often, government resists attempts by its citizens to obtain records that would reveal how government works.

The EdBuild contract is the most-recent example. EdBuild is advising the Legislature, at taxpayer expense, as that body considers whether to overhaul the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. At least that’s what lawmakers who entered into the contract say it is doing.

Few have seen the contract between the Legislature and EdBuild. The House wouldn’t let Mississippi Today reporter Kate Royals have it. For a while, it wouldn’t let state Rep. Jay Hughes see it.

Rules adopted by the House Management Committee this week allow members to look at such contracts but forbid them from telling the public what’s in them.

It’s no wonder state officials are so touchy about the subject of MAEP. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have routinely failed to live up to their own law and adequately fund public education. In fact, it has met the law’s standard for education funding only twice since the law was enacted in 1997.

When lawmakers allowed the public to weigh in on MAEP this week, a lot of people told lawmakers to give schools more money and leave the formula alone.

Oh, and they aren’t fans of secrecy, either.

“Secrecy has never been our friend, particularly here in Mississippi,” said Carrie Barksdale, a parent from Madison, according to the Associated Press. “We have a long history of hiding things and pretending.”

EdBuild is supposed to submit its recommendations by the end of the year. The next legislative session begins Jan. 3.

EdBuild’s recommendations should be public. We hope that happens before the height of the holiday season. We hope lawmakers don’t rush to judgment early next year before the people they serve have had a chance to study the proposals and tell their representatives and senators what they think of any proposed changes.

The recent election, and the comments of parents at the EdBuild hearing, show people don’t exactly view the government as trustworthy.

That’s a problem for government. And secrecy won’t solve it.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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