Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007
Governor tours Rust College
By SUE WATSON
Rust College was host to Governor Haley Barbour last week as he made a campaign tour in northern counties including stops in Ripley, Holly Springs and Byhalia.
President David Beckley and a group of about 40 students and professors were there to welcome Barbour.
“It’s an historic event for our college to welcome a sitting governor,” Beckley said.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry echoed Beckley’s remarks.
“It’s an honor to gather on behalf of the 63rd governor as he comes to Holly Springs,” DeBerry said. “Indeed, it is an honor for any community to have a governor to visit.”
Before Barbour spoke, Beckley made prefacing remarks.
“Governor, you are on sacred ground,” he said.
Rust College was established in 1866, the first institution in Mississippi to educate former slaves, he said.
The college has been a host to numbers of notable reputation.
“You join a long list of friends of Rust College,” he said.
Barbour called for bipartisan efforts to keep Mississippi moving forward, then addressed his efforts to fund education.
Mississippi spends 63 percent of its budget on education and fully funded Adequate Education for K-12 this year for the first time.
Rust College is a private institution and therefore is not funded by the state directly but is eligible for federal grants.
He is in favor of putting more dollars into the classroom and hiring quality teachers to achieve results for children.
As Mississippi’s economy changes, so much more is expected of education and the workforce, Barbour said.
“You go down the list of companies coming to Mississippi to create jobs, and companies used to look for strong backs and low wages,” he said. “Today, companies are looking for strong minds and are willing to pay for them.”
The resources of the state are now being applied to accelerate economic development, he said. Personal income is up by 20 percent since he took office in 2004, he said.
Barbour said his job at the end of the day is to represent all of the people and do the most good for the most people.
Barbour opposed putting 4-year-old children into the public school system, saying Head Start type organizations provided services for 50 percent of the state’s preschoolers - that 80 percent of the state’s preschool population is already served.
Federal dollars support the Head Start type organizations while it would cost the state $350 million a year to add a 14th grade, Barbour said.
“I’m proud to have allies like Arvern (Moore), Kelvin (Buck), Tommy Woods and Ralph (Doxey),” he said.
Taking questions from the floor, Barbour said no one plan fits all needs - such as the economic development of Marshall, Benton and surrounding counties.
He expects Marshall County to get more distribution centers because of its strategic location near major distribution corridors and Memphis - the largest distribution center in the world.
He also believes colleges and universities will play increasingly important roles in economic development.
“Our universities are economic development gold mines,” Barbour said. “We just haven’t been very successful at mining them.
“But there’s no silver bullet - not one major thing that will make Holly Springs the richest town in the state. It doesn’t work that way.”
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