Arts school funding put back on track

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

An agreement Wednesday by Lt. Governor Amy Tuck and keylegislative leaders in both the Senate and the House ofRepresentatives appears to have found the necessary funds to allowthe Mississippi School of the Arts to open in August asplanned.

“We are highly encouraged,” said Vicki Bodenhamer, the executivedirector of the arts school. “It will not be a done deal until itis signed into law, but it appears the funding is in place to getthe doors opened as planned.”

The measure, which involves funding from two different sources,calls for a total $3.1 million in funding to purchase capitalexpenses such as furniture, cafeteria supplies and other one-timeexpenses. Also included are operational funds to allow the schoolto open.

The school has been on a financial roller coaster for the pastmonth after the education funding bill passed in January failed toitemize the school’s operational budget. Instead, it simplyinstructed the Department of Education to fund the school.

Concerns were raised earlier this week when it appeared fundspromised to the school would be diverted to other projects.

Bodenhamer said Tuck called her personally Wednesday and pledgedher support to the school.

“While that gets us the Senate, we still have the House where weneed approval,” the director said.

Rep. Jim Barnett is encouraged that the necessary approval willcome from House members.

“I have been working closely with Rep. Charlie Capps and Rep.Billy McCoy and feel that we have the necessary support,” Barnettsaid this morning.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said she was very excited about prospectsin the Senate.

“It has come down to the wire, but that is how the legislatureworks in a tight budget situation,” said Hyde-Smith, who creditedTuck with making the difference. “The lieutenant governor made thishappen.”

While an agreement has been reached with key leaders, the fulllegislature has not voted on the measure that will be attached toanother bill.

“The staff of the school is very appreciative of the hard workand efforts of our local legislators. Without the efforts of Dr.Barnett and Cindy Hyde-Smith, this would not have happened,”Bodenhamer said.