Backers sing MSA’s praises on Brookhaven Day

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 18, 2005

JACKSON – Community and area leaders pressed the need forcontinued support for the Mississippi School of the Arts lastThursday during Brookhaven Day activities at the Capitol.

Dr. Luke Lampton, a MSA Foundation board member from PikeCounty, touted the school’s importance to the area and thestate.

“All of us in the southern part of the state are passionate aboutthe school of the arts,” Lampton told a gathering of statelawmakers and other guests during a luncheon at the UniversityClub.

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Lampton said MSA, which opened two years ago, is one of the bestthings to happen to the state in years. He said it is important forpromoting the arts in rural school districts and providing futureopportunities for students.

“If not for the school of the arts, children … would not have aplace to go with they are gifted in the arts,” Lampton said.

With the state facing a tough budget situation, funding for thearts school remains a concern for supporters.

One pending legislative proposal would provide less than $1 millionfor school operations, about half of what the school received thisyear. However, supporters and education officials cautioned thatthe Legislature is still early in the budgeting process and werehopeful the funding would increase.

“We hope they realize how important our centers of excellence are,”said Bill Sones, MSA Foundation president, “and that we don’tthwart the future of our state by not properly budgeting for thosecenters like MSA and the Mississippi School of Math andScience.”

District 27 Sen. Hillman Frazier, one of about 50 lawmakers whoattended the luncheon, said he is not for taking the school off thetable because the state is facing a difficult economic situation.He said students who attend MSA can make valuable contributions tothe state.

“We have to focus on working toward opportunities for them andhelping support their skills and talents,” Frazier said.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Henry Johnson was also amongluncheon guests. He warned of the budget situation’s impact on alleducational areas.

“It’s not looking good across the state in any area of education,”Johnson said. “The Mississippi School of the Arts is included inthat.”

Johnson, though, said he had to remain optimistic and thateducation officials would keep “plugging along” in support ofeducational opportunities for students.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue with the program,” Johnsonsaid about MSA. “It’s an outstanding program and worthwhile for thestudents who attend and the state as a whole.”

Following the luncheon, MSA vocal students sang two songs at thestart of the House of Representatives’ afternoon session. The groupreceived two standing ovations from lawmakers.