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State legislative leaders grasping arts school vision

While Senate Appropriation Committee members were debating theins and outs of education funding, a surprise move by a northMississippi legislator to strip the Mississippi School of the Artsof $450,000 in funding raised the ire of committee members.

In a resounding ‘no’ vote led by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith ofBrookhaven, the amendment by Sen. Merle Flowers of Southaven wasoverwhelmingly defeated. Also speaking out for the arts school wereSen. Lydia Chassaniol of Winona, Sen. Alice Harden of Jackson andSen. Mike Chaney of Vicksburg.

While the attempt to strip the MSA budget is troublesome, apositive note is the overwhelming support for the fledging schoolby Senate committee members. Those members understand theimportance of a well-rounded education.

Now in its fourth year of operation, the arts school hasgraduated two classes of aspiring artists who are now followingtheir dreams, many with full scholarships to universities acrossthe country. The foundations these students’ talents are built uponis due to the vision of legislators in 1999 when the school wascreated.

Unfortunately for the school, two of its earliest and biggestsupporters in the Legislature will not be in Jackson next year asRep. Jim Barnett and Sen. Mike Chaney have announced plans toretire.

Thursday’s Senate committee vote, however, shows the vision ofthe school is still strong among legislative leaders, who appearwilling to carry forward the vision started eight years ago.