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Lt. Gov. praises school of arts

The Mississippi School of the Arts represents an important partof the state’s education and economic development efforts and willprovide opportunities for students for many years ahead, Lt. Gov.Amy Tuck said Wednesday.

Speaking at a Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceQuarterly Membership Breakfast, Tuck applauded the school thatopened earlier this month and the community effort that helped makeit a reality. She said MSA will bring educational opportunities forstudents closer to home.

“This school will pay dividends for our state and its studentsin the years to come,” said Tuck during the first public event inthe Student Life Center’s cafeteria.

In creating the school, Tuck said treasured Whitworth campusbuildings were able to be saved while also providing an opportunityfor students.

“Mississippi School of the Arts represents the future,” Tucksaid. “Throughout its life time, thousands of Mississippi youngpeople will come through its doors, and I have no doubt they willbe enriched by the experience.”

Tuck said Mississippi must continue to make education apriority, and students must begin the educational process on alevel playing field and be able to finish strong. She mentioned astatewide needs assessment survey that will help identify strongteaching practices.

“We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, but let’s find out what’sworking and implement it in other parts of the state,” Tucksaid.

Tuck said it is important to have the best and brightestteachers staying and working in Mississippi classrooms. She touteda strong education system’s role in trying to bring new jobs andbusiness to the state.

“That is one of the most important recruiting tools you can havein economic development,” Tuck said.

Tuck indicated the arts school will be a promotional tool ineconomic development activities.

“That is another wonderful attraction we can talk about whentrying to bring industry to our state,” Tuck said.

In other educational matters, Tuck stressed having safe schools,teacher accountability and giving teachers the authority tomaintain discipline in their classrooms. Funding for work forcetraining remains a needed education endeavor.

“It has been a priority and must continue to be,” Tuck said.

Tuck also took the opportunity Wednesday to hail tort reformmeasures approved during an 83-day special session last year and topress for continued improvement in that area.

“It is vitally important for our state that we bring stabilityto our legal climate,” Tuck said.

Tuck said Mississippi needs to project a positive image and aclimate that helps small businesses survive. Over 40,000 smallbusinesses in the state have 20 employees or less, she said.

“That’s the heartbeat of Mississippi,” said Tuck, adding thatmany small businesses are living in fear that they are “one lawsuitaway from bankruptcy.”

Tuck said last year’s tort reform legislation included strongvenue language and caps on non-economic and punitive damage awards.While the measures represented a good start, Tuck called for morelegislation regarding joint and severable liability to make thoseactually at fault more responsible for damages penalties.

“It’s strictly a fairness issue,” Tuck said.