Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on the creation of a lottery that could help expand prekindergarten in Mississippi:
The research is clear - early childhood education is critically important.
In fact, a growing volume of academic research has concluded that if policy makers were going to focus all of their efforts on improving education into one area that can have the greatest impact, pre-K would be it.
That's because so much of children's brain development happens in the first four years of their lives. It's when they learn language development, thinking skills and social interaction. It's also when they begin to develop soft skills like confidence, tenacity and patience that will play a big role in their ability to be successful in school and beyond.
Studies have shown that the academic achievement gap that persists between various groups of students tends to be at its greatest point on the first day of kindergarten - largely based on the fact that various students have had different amounts of academic exposure during those critical early years. A 2011 report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals found that high-quality pre-K could eliminate 20 percent of the achievement gap.
When school starts this month, public pre-K access will be very uneven across Mississippi. On one hand, you have robust programs like Tupelo's Early Childhood Education Center that prepares about half of the school district's 4-year-olds to enter kindergarten next fall. Other districts have smaller programs and some are not able to offer any.
Until 2013, Mississippi was the only state in the South that spent no money on pre-K. Even now, that funding is limited to 13 public-private collaboratives spread throughout the state. Only about 20 percent of Mississippi kindergartners this year will have attended a public pre-K or pre-K collaborative, as reported by Daily Journal education reporter Dillon Mullan.
The state's future success depends on raising that number, but doing so will require a new investment of state funding.
We realize that state funding is tight right now, but there is one potential source of new revenue that can be used to greatly enhance the state's educational outlook - a state lottery.
Momentum has been building in recent years toward the possible enactment of a state lottery, and it's possible the issue will be taken up by lawmakers during a special session expected to be called this month.
And while some have cited the lottery as a source for much-needed transportation funds, there are other funding sources that make more sense there - such as a higher gas tax.
Many states that have lotteries use that money for education, and Mississippi should do the same.
If the state decides to create a lottery, its funds should help the state's immense educational needs. And the biggest need is expanded pre-K.
The Daily Leader on taking precautions against contracting West Nile Virus:
West Nile Virus is creeping closer to Lincoln County, with cases reported in Copiah, Hinds and Adams counties. Cases have also been reported in Forrest, Marion, Oktibbeha and Pearl River counties.
The Mississippi State Department of Health has confirmed 13 cases so far in 2018. Mississippi reported 63 West Nile cases and two deaths in 2017.
Health officials say most mosquito-borne infections happen from July to December. They urge people to reduce infection risk by using insect repellent, reducing standing water to prevent mosquito breeding and wearing long clothing.
Most people infected with the virus never show any symptoms. Some develop a flu-like disease. A few come down with encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and even death.
MSDH officials say in a news release that people should be careful and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes by using repellent containing DEET, minimize outdoor activity between dusk and dawn and eliminate standing water around residences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a few more tips.
. When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.
. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside.
There's no way to avoid mosquitoes altogether, but taking a common-sense approach to prevention can reduce the number of West Nile virus cases.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on an initiative that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes only:
When proponents of legalized marijuana tried to get a referendum on the issue three years ago, it was doomed to fail.
In a state as conservative as Mississippi, there was no way the people were going to support making marijuana legal for both medical and recreational use.
A narrower initiative, such as the one filed recently that legalizes marijuana only for medical poses, has a better chance of getting on the ballot.
As Mississippi Today recently reported, the initiative has already attracted a diverse coalition that includes a handful of religious and political conservatives. Whether they consider it a question of liberty or mercy, they are part of a trend in this country that sees nothing wrong with smoking pot if a qualified medical professional says it can relieve a patient's mental or physical suffering. Thirty states now have legalized medical marijuana.
As with a lot of prescription drugs, the benefits of marijuana might outweigh its side effects. Those side effects, though, need to be recognized and evaluated, including being a possible gateway to harder, more addictive narcotics.
Mississippi is naturally inclined to be skeptical of legalization. Taking it slow still might be a good thing.