Winter: "Public Education Crucial"

In a speech to teachers from the Philadelphia Public Municipal School District, former Governor William Winter held nothing back.

"I get so tired of people who don't know what they're talking about and just criticize public schools," said Winter.

Known to be a strong supporter for public education, Winter is credited with spearheading passage of the Education Reform Act of 1982, a measure which mandated kindergarten for Mississippi students.

"The only road out of poverty leads by the schoolhouse," said Winter. " We're never going to be able to be competitive in this state unless we have a workforce that is competitive."

Newly appointed superintendent Dr. Britt Dickens agrees. He comes to Philadelphia from Oxford, an area with one of the top- ranked school systems in the state.

"The communities in Mississippi that are thriving are the ones that are supporting public education," said Dickens. "The ones that are not are drying up."

Far from drying up is the city of Philadelphia. Over the past eight years the area has experienced an economic boom, with the development of two casinos and scores of new businesses. Not only that, but local officials say support for public education has also played a big factor.

"When we did our bond issue for Philadelphia High School to add a middle school, our bond issue passed by 95 percent," said Mayor Rayburn Waddell. "No community is going to be as strong a community as it can be without a support for public education."

Classes in the Philadelphia School District resume Thursday.