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Hyde-Smith announces $7.5 million to advance pumps project in the South Delta

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U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississippi

Mississippi’s U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith announced in a statement Monday that $7.5 million in federal funds have been allocated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to advance efforts to address Yazoo Backwater Area flooding.

The $7.5 million is “to continue environmental documentation and the acquisition of mitigation necessary to advance revived efforts to complete the last remaining unconstructed feature of the project—pumps,” Hyde-Smith’s statement says.

The funding is part of a larger $46.5 million allocation for the Corps to work on 27 projects in Mississippi.

An additional $800,000 will be allocated to Yazoo Backwater Area under the Mississippi River and Tributaries – Operation and Maintenance account.

The Vicksburg Harbor will receive an additional $2,000 under that account.

Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the Army Corps, said the additional FY2020 funding will support flood control structures, six wastewater projects in Clinton, Gautier, Oxford, Sardis, and Jackson and DeSoto counties, and harbor dredging in Gulfport and Pascagoula.

“Congress gives the Army Corps the discretion to allocate funding to projects that are underfunded but would have a near-term positive impact on public health and safety,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement. “This is the case for the projects in Mississippi getting additional funding,”

“I am particularly pleased the Army Corps is dedicating funding to the Yazoo Backwater Area, which signals it understands the critical situation in the South Delta,” she said.

The additional Mississippi project funding derives from the FY2020 appropriations legislation signed into law in December. The Army Corps FY2020 Work Plan outlines the projects that will receive additional resources this year.

Allocation of the$46.5 million is as follows:

Construction Account – Environmental Infrastructure: $13,752,500 total (new funding)

  • $4.0 million for an ongoing project to reclaim treated wastewater effluent from points in southern Jackson County
  • $3,922,500 to complete construction of the Lower Camp Creek Force Main pipeline portion of the DeSoto County Wastewater Treatment Project
  • $2,500,000 for a nano filtration water treatment plant for the City of Gautier
  • $1,700,000 to initiate and complete construction of new sewer and water rehabilitation work in the City of Oxford
  • $750,000 to initiate and complete construction of new sewer and water rehabilitation work in the City of Sardis
  • $700,000 to initiate and complete construction of new sewer and water rehabilitation work in the City of Clinton

Operation & Maintenance Account: $12,961,000 total

  • Additional $6,029,000 for channel dredging and activities at Whitten Lock on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (FY2020 total: $43,698,000)
  • Additional $5,130,000 for Gulfport Harbor dredging (FY2020 total: $9,485,000)
  • Additional $1,700,000 for Pascagoula Harbor dredging (FY2020 total: $5,560,000)
  • Additional $39,000 for Yazoo River navigation maintenance clearing and snagging activities (FY2020 total: $150,000)
  • Additional $23,000 for Mouth of the Yazoo River dredging activities (FY2020 total: $330,000)
  • $40,000 for Water and Environmental Certification

Mississippi River and Tributaries – Construction: $13,192,000 total (new funding)

  • $7,500,000 million for the Yazoo Backwater Area to continue environmental documentation and the acquisition of mitigation necessary to advance revived efforts to complete the last remaining unconstructed feature of the project—pumps
  • $2,942,000 for Big Sunflower River to complete the design and construction of two sediment reduction structure projects
  • $2,750,000 for Upper Yazoo Projects for ongoing channel improvement and bank stabilization efforts

Mississippi River and Tributaries – Operation and Maintenance: $6,819,000 total

  • Additional $1,655,.000 – Arkabutla Lake (FY2020 total: $7,186,000)
  • Additional $1,322,00 – Grenada Lake (FY2020 total: $6,151,000)
  • Additional $826,000 – Sardis Lake (FY2020 total: $6,116,000)
  • Additional $800,000 – Yazoo Backwater Area (FY2020 total: $1,204,000)
  • Additional $743,000 – Tributaries (FY2020 total: $1,418,000)
  • Additional $655,000 – Enid Lake (FY2020 total: $5,318,000)
  • Additional $560,000 – Main Stem (FY2020 total: $1,695,000)
  • Additional $107,000 – Inspection of Completed Works (FY2020 total: $259,000)
  • Additional $100,000 – Whittington Auxiliary (FY2020 total: $380,000)
  • Additional $45,000 – Yazoo City (FY2020 total: $559,000)
  • Additional $4,000 – Greenwood (FY2020 total: $751,000)
  • Additional $2,000 – Vicksburg Harbor (FY2020 total: $942,000)

 

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Key education groups call Gov. Reeves’ budget priorities hypocritical, ‘extremely disappointing’

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Gov. Tate Reeves during a March press conference. (Photo by Eric Shelton, Mississippi Today, used with permission)

As COVID-19 cases in students and teachers hit their highest point yet and schools across the state are forced to close their doors, educators received an additional blow this week from Gov. Tate Reeves.

Reeves released his first fiscal year budget recommendation as governor on Monday and, despite promising to raise teacher pay during his 2019 campaign, made no mention of a salary increase. He did, however, recommend limiting funding to schools that do not teach in-person during the pandemic, and setting aside $3 million for a “Patriotic Education Fund” to combat “revisionist history” that is “poisoning a generation.”

During the 2020 session, it appeared Reeves and legislative leadership were poised to provide teachers a $1,000 salary increase, but those plans were put on hold by an anticipated decrease in state revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average salary for a public school teacher in Mississippi in 2019 was $45,105, according to the Mississippi Department of Education, and Mississippi’s average salary is the lowest in the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

When Mississippi Today reached out to Reeves’ press secretary after his budget recommendation was released publicly, she said in a statement: “We believe strongly that we can still find the funds to administer teacher pay raises.”

Reeves’ budget recommendation also stated that schools that do not offer in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic should have their funding limited. He said that because their budgets include funds to support services geared to in-person learning such as food service and transportation, school districts providing traditional learning are at “a financial disadvantage.”

“For this reason, I propose limiting funding for school districts unwilling to provide the option of essential classroom instruction,” the recommendation stated. 

State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said districts were given three options for operating this school year in an effort to allow each district to respond specifically to what was going on in their communities during the pandemic. She also pointed to the $200 million allocated by the Legislature to ensure every student in the state has access to a device and connectivity in order to be able to learn remotely. 

“There is no replacement for a good teacher; however, districts that provide distance learning in accordance with public health guidelines cannot afford to have their funds limited,” Wright said in a statement to Mississippi Today. 

The state’s teachers union released a lengthy statement pointing to what they say is hypocrisy on the part of the governor.

“When we requested statewide COVID reporting standards and guidance on how to address teacher absences during the pandemic, we were told unequivocally that districts best knew how to handle their response,” the statement from the Mississippi Association of Educators read. “Now that some districts have elected to keep buildings closed because they do not have the staff and resources to safely serve their district’s students and families, the governor has decided that they can no longer be trusted to do what’s best.”

The group references the Greenville Public School District, where schools were operating virtually at the beginning of the semester and just this month, after the death of a teacher, announced it would return to virtual learning.

“Following an outbreak, they have decided to return to virtual instruction. And now, after being assured that the state government would play no role in their district’s COVID plan, Governor Reeves is threatening to withhold critically-needed funding when districts need it most,” the statement continued. 

The governor also recommends spending $3 million to create a Patriotic Education Fund. The fund would be used to pay for teaching that combats what Reeves says is “indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.”

The fund is reminiscent of the 1776 Commission, an executive order by President Donald Trump establishing a commission to promote “patriotic education” in the United States. This came about in response to the 1619 Project, an initiative launched by the New York Times Magazine in 2019 which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

On Wednesday, Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for Reeves, said the idea was original though the mission is similar to Trump’s. She said the funds could be used as an “addition” to students’ education, though in the budget recommendation Reeves said the program is necessary because “We need to combat the dramatic shift in education.”

“Field trips, after-school clubs, the development of new interesting lesson plans, and more could be funded with these dollars — we are hoping teachers, administrators and non-profits are creative in their ideas of how to take advantage of the opportunity,” she said in a statement. “It would be a great bonus for Mississippi’s youth, in addition to their typical education.”

In response, officials at the Mississippi Department of Education pointed out that the social studies standards, or grade-level goals for learning, were developed by Mississippi teachers and adopted by the State Board of Education in 2018.

“The standards take an unbiased look at U.S. History that allows students to examine multiple viewpoints of a historic event or period. Students explored the pride and resilience of the American spirit through study of civics, democracy, capitalism and major events that have shaped our country,” a statement from the department said. 

Kelly Riley, executive director of the Mississippi Professional Educators, called the governor’s budget recommendation and the statements made to support the creation of the Patriotic Education Fund “extremely disappointing.”

“Mississippi educators are teaching the curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education, members of whom Governor Reeves appoints,” Riley said. “Such unfounded generalizations that attack the pedagogy and character of teachers across our state are certainly not an encouraging way to begin the upcoming (legislative) session.” 

Reeves also recommended: $3 million for math coaches across the state; $2 million to train teachers in computer science and coding; and fully funding the School Recognition Program, which financially rewards teachers in A-rated schools and schools that improve a letter grade. 

The 14-member Legislative Budget Committee will make its budget recommendation in December.


This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Blood donations needed from former COVID-19 patients

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Mississippi Blood Services is asking people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate convalescent plasma to help those who are now seriously ill with the virus.

For information and qualifications, please call MBS at 601-368-2692 or email [email protected].

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Make your Christmas tree a ‘Genuine Mississippi’ tree

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As the holidays approach, Andy Gipson, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, encourages those celebrating to make this year a “Genuine Mississippi” Christmas by purchasing a Mississippi Christmas tree.

The Department of Agriculture and Commerce has made it easy for shoppers to find the perfect Mississippi Christmas tree this holiday season at MSChristmasTrees.com online. The website, part of the “Genuine MS” state branding program, provides a guide to the types of Christmas trees grown in the state and the locations of Mississippi Christmas tree farms where locally grown trees can be purchased.

“As families prepare for the holidays, I encourage them to visit one of the 32 Christmas tree farms in the state. It’s an experience the whole family will enjoy, and selecting a Genuine MS Christmas tree supports our Mississippi farmers, as well as the local and state economies,” Gipson said in a release. “Consumers can also find an array of other Mississippi products for the holiday season from stocking stuffers and gift ideas to ingredients for special holiday meals at GenuineMS.com online.”

For those who have never owned a Christmas tree or need tips for caring for a tree, MSChristmasTrees.com explains how to select the best Christmas tree for your family, how to safely care for a Christmas tree and how to dispose of your tree after the holidays.

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