A two-part effort to look into the future of public education in Mississippi has been planned with the DeSoto Arts Council holding the meetings.

Called “Ideas of Tap,” the first meeting will be held on Aug. 13 and the follow-up meeting will be on Sept. 17. Both meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Arts Council, located at 2465 Highway 51 South in Hernando.

The Mississippi Humanities Council is hosting the meetings, called “Ideas on Tap.” The panel discussion for the Aug. 13 program will look at different approaches to improving the state’s public schools. Panelists include Rachel Canter of Mississippi First, Nancy Loome of the Parents’ Campaign and Grant Callen of Empower Mississippi. MHC Executive Director Dr. Stuart Rockoff will moderate the program. The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi will serve as a local partner for the Hernando programs.

“Public education is a topic that elicits very strong opinions. Our goal is to bring together experts who have different approaches to the issue of improving our schools,” said Rockoff. “Rather than simply a policy debate about school funding, charters and vouchers, the discussion will focus on the larger philosophical differences between these approaches.”

The Hernando programs will be part of a larger yearlong series on public education in communities around the state. The series, funded by a $25,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation, will examine Mississippi’s public education system in advance of the 2019 statewide elections.

In addition to Hernando, programs will take place in Tupelo, Meridian and Biloxi. Earlier programs in the series took place this spring in Jackson and Clarksdale.

The MHC’s Ideas on Tap program presents informal humanities-based discussions on a wide array of contemporary topics. The program began in Jackson in 2016 and has since expanded to host programs in Oxford, Cleveland, Starkville, Hattiesburg, Pass Christian and Clarksdale.

“We couldn’t be more excited for this conversation to take place in Hernando,” said MHC program officer Caroline Gillespie. “The goal of Ideas on Tap is to create opportunities for Mississippians to come together and have civil discussions about the important issues we face.”

The second Ideas on Tap program in Hernando will take place Sept. 17, also at the DeSoto Arts Council, and will feature a panel of local voices to discuss the role of public education in economic development in DeSoto County.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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