MSA countermeasure filed

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Brookhaven lawmaker’s counter proposal to moving theMississippi School of the Arts out of Brookhaven faces a difficultroad ahead after her legislation was referred to the desk of therelocation effort’s leader.

House Bill 692, which would move the Mississippi School forMathematics and Science to Brookhaven instead of moving MSA toColumbus, was referred to the House Education Committee forconsideration Wednesday. District 66 Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson -who has authored legislation to move MSA from Brookhaven two yearsin a row – chairs the committee.

District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, said she does notknow why her bill was referred to Brown’s committee. She said thelegislation is basically a copy of Brown’s House Bill 599, whichwas referred to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I took his bill and swapped the names,” Currie said. “I didthat on purpose.”

Brown said Tuesday he does not believe moving MSMS to Brookhavenis feasible given the local campus’ limited space and need forrenovations.

Both bills deal with similar sections of the Mississippi Codebut have ended up in different committees. The speaker of the Houseassigns bills to committees and chairmen decide which ones arebrought up for discussion.

Currie said HB 692 is basically a contradiction meant tohighlight what she perceives as weaknesses in the argument to moveMSA to Columbus, where it would sit on the campus of theMississippi University for Women. Since no studies have been doneto demonstrate the perceived cost savings and enhanced educationalopportunities expected by combining MSA and MSMS in northMississippi, it’s feasible to expect those same results by mergingboth schools on the Brookhaven campus, she said.

“The whole thing is a shot in the dark anyway,” Currie said. “Ithink it needs to be looked at both ways, not just take somethingfrom Southwest Mississippi.”

Currie said her bill should actually receive more considerationthan Brown’s bill because consolidating both residential highschools in Brookhaven would remove the students from a collegecampus, a situation that makes many MSA supporters and parentsuncomfortable. She said the move to Brookhaven also makes sensegiven the instability facing MUW, which is smaller than somecommunity colleges and has been suggested by Gov. Haley Barbour formerger with nearby Mississippi State University.

“What if MSU doesn’t want (high school students) on theircampus?” Currie said. “Before we make flippant decisions with anymore taxpayers’ money, why don’t we know what we’re doing? We spent$30 million Brookhaven, what are lawmakers going to say?Whoops?”

Moving MSMS to Brookhaven also warrants as much effort as thealternative because large expenditures would be needed either way,said MSA Director Suzanne Hirsch. She said neither campus couldafford to take on the other without extensive construction andrenovation.

“A merger either way is going to cost additional money, requirehiring new teachers and constructing new dorms. And it’s acompletely different school if you do that. It’s not an arts schoolanymore,” Hirsch said. “But (Brown’s) bill looks like it would keepthe schools the same – just change the location, which completelydefeats the purpose of a merger.”

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, is expected toauthor a bill similar to Currie’s. She said negotiations to keepMSA in Brookhaven are ongoing, but declined to elaborate.