Let us begin with the founding of Madison County. Turning back the pages of time, it becomes evident that Madison County was a “chip off the old block” since the county was created out of Yazoo and Hinds Counties on January 29, 1828 and was named for James Madison, our fourth president.
In 1856, the Illinois Central Railroad opened Madison Station in Madison County. The town of Madison developed along this busy railroad track in pre-Civil War Mississippi. Maj. Gen. S.D. Lee was in command at Madison Station when the station received heavy damage in 1864 by the Union Army during the war. Bulldog fans will be interested to know that this same Gen. Lee was appointed the first president of Mississippi A & M – now Mississippi State University.
Canton was legally incorporated in 1836 with a population of 400 that year. Later, since Canton was near the center of the county, it became the county seat.
Ridgeland, covering the southern part of Madison County, is the largest city in the county. Most of their growth has been under the leadership of Mayor Gene McGee.
The 2010 Census lists Mississippi as having three million plus people living in the state and there are 82 counties from the Tennessee line southward to the Gulf of Mexico. As a textbook representative for many years, I remember there were 149 public school districts in those 82 counties. That number may have changed a bit in the past few years, but having 149 school districts in 82 counties is way too many school districts, in my opinion. By way of comparison, I worked in the state of Florida several times. There are 67 counties and 67 school districts in that state and their population is 24 million.
If you consider that Mississippi has 149 school districts; that means that we have 149 superintendents and each of them has an assistant superintendent and each has an office and staff. Their salaries, plus that of their staff and the other expenditures (lights, heat, phones, computers, supplies) add up to quite an expenditure of funds. I realize that consolidation of schools has happened in several areas, but more needs to happen.
Sixty-two cents of every dollar in the state budget goes to public schools from kindergarten to the university level. Since we have this huge school system to fund, no wonder the schools suffer a shortage of money - it is spread too thin. If we had one school district in each county, and if the best school system in each county could become the one school system in that county, then the money would be divided among 82 counties instead of 149 districts. Our schools then could compete with any school system in the nation. In Massachusetts the per-pupil expenditure is about $17,000. My hope is that one day the budget per-pupil in Mississippi would be at least half that amount.
Reading and writing must be accomplished by the third grade or failure usually takes over. Education is so important and is the answer to many of our state’s problems. Without more consolidation, it’s hard to see how we’ll ever improve our system.
It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you did not.
Please take time to read and memorize Numbers 6:24-25.
Walter Redden is a Northsider.