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MSA-MSMS merger discussed again

Despite efforts in the last two years to solidify the operatingbudget of the Mississippi School of the Arts, one House leader issuggesting the school be moved to Columbus and merged with theMississippi School of Math and Science.

According to a story today in the Commercial Dispatch, anewspaper in Columbus, House Appropriations Chairman JohnnyStringer, D-Montrose, suggested a merger Monday during aLegislative Budget Committee hearing. The House leader did not sayif he would attempt to merge the schools.

“If we had them together, I think we’d save money,” Stringer isquoted as telling the committee.

Stringer also told the committee the state should considercharging tuition for students to attend.

The comments came following a budget request for MSA totaling$3.2 million, a $696,120 increase from last year. The school alsorequested $19 million for additional construction work.

The funding request was made by State Education SuperintendentHank Bounds as part of the department’s $3.3 billion budget requestfor the 2007 fiscal year starting in July.

The request for construction funding apparently startledlawmakers, with Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Robertson, R-MossPoint, questioning the wisdom of locating the arts school inBrookhaven in the first place.

“Putting the art school there is like putting a veterinaryschool on Broadway,” the newspaper says Robinson told thecommittee.

Questioning Dr. Bounds on the feasibility of merging theschools, Bounds told the committee it could save money but theconsolidation is for the legislature to decide.

The Mississippi School of the Arts opened in 2003, with itsfirst graduating class in 2004. MSA is for gifted students with acurriculum in the performing and visual arts.

The Legislative Budget Committee is holding hearings this weekas part of the annual budget process for next year. Itsrecommendation will be made to the Legislature, which convenes inJanuary.