(AP) Calling numerous social science and humanities degree programs “indoctrination factories,” Mississippi’s auditor says the state should defund several college majors and invest in subjects that match the state’s workforce needs.
In a report published Tuesday, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, a Republican, argued that the state should change its approach to funding its public universities. He proposed tying public investment to workforce needs instead of providing funds without regard for the degree programs, as has traditionally been the case. Too many college graduates are leaving Mississippi, and aligning degree programs with labor market demand might stem the tide, White said.
In numerous statements on social media leading up to the report’s publication, White said there should be no taxpayer funding for “useless degrees” in “garbage fields” like Urban Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, German Literature, African American Studies, Gender Studies and Women’s Studies. Claiming some academic programs are hotbeds of political radicalization, White statements and his report arrive as education, from K-12 to the university level, remains at the center of America’s culture wars.
A Florida law enacted in May bars curricula that teach “identity politics” or theories about race, gender and sexuality disfavored by conservatives. A raft of legislation passed by Republican-controlled legislatures curtails diversity, equity and inclusion programs at public universities.
White leaned into the ideological fights roiling higher education in his social media commentary. But the report released by his office focuses on elevating some majors over others as a solution to Mississippi’s brain drain — a phenomenon that sees significant numbers of college graduates earning their degrees in the mostly rural state and then departing for bigger paychecks and expanded cultural opportunities.
One way to stop the outmigration is to have the state increase funding in degree programs with higher earning potential right after graduating, such as in engineering or business management, according to White’s report.
“Some high-paying degree programs were not likely to produce graduates who work in Mississippi, and this represents a missed opportunity for the state’s taxpayers,” the report said. “Producing more of these graduates and then retaining even a small number of them would inject millions of additional dollars into Mississippi’s economy.”
At the same time, the state should cut taxpayer funding for programs in the social sciences, humanities and arts that aren’t advantageous for the state’s economy, White said. He pointed to a 2023 Texas law that bases funding for community colleges on “measurable outcomes” like the number of degrees awarded in high-demand fields.
In an August 2022 analysis, Corey Miller and Sondra Collins, economists for Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning, said one likely factor at the root of the state’s brain drain is an increasing segregation by education nationwide. In the mid-to-late 20th century, a smaller percentage of the U.S. population went to college, and those who did were distributed more evenly throughout the country.
Today, more people earn degrees. College graduates are concentrated in the nation’s urban centers. Unlike many nearby states, Mississippi’s largest city, Jackson, has a shrinking population.
“This demographic shift has profound implications for the Mississippi economy given the college-educated share of the state’s population is one of the smallest in the country,” wrote Miller and Collins.
The share of Mississippi’s population ages 25 and above who held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2020 was 22.8 %, which ranked 49th among all states, ahead of only West Virginia. In one online comment, White pointed to financial trouble and budget cuts at West Virginia’s largest public university as a sign Mississippi should defund some degree programs.
On Sept. 15, West Virginia University’s board voted to drop 28 of its majors and cut 143 faculty positions as it grapples with a $45 million budget shortfall. Among the cuts are one-third of the education department faculty and the entire world language department.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice pointed to “some level of bloating in programs and things that maybe, just maybe, we ought not to be teaching at WVU.”
White does not have the authority to regulate education funding, but the state legislature often uses reports from the auditor to evaluate government spending and weigh potential budget cuts. The auditor studied political science and economics at the University of Mississippi and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Utah-based private prison company has returned $5.1 million to the Mississippi Department of Corrections after an investigation found it failed to provide enough workers at prisons it was operating, state Auditor Shad White said Monday.
Management & Training Corporation sent the money to the department last week, he said.
“Every penny must be accounted for,” White said in a news release.
The auditor’s office started investigating MTC — based in Centerville, Utah — in 2021 when allegations arose that the company was not providing the correct amount of prison staff required under contracts with the state. The auditor’s office ultimately found MTC failed to provide enough workers to ensure the safety of inmates and prison employees, but the company was still paid by the state as if it had.
MTC communications director Emily Lawhead said in a statement Monday that the $5.1 million MTC sent to Mississippi last week resulted from the company’s internal audit of the two prisons it operates — East Mississippi Correctional Center near Meridian and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility near Woodville.
Lawhead said MTC has worked closely with the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the past decade “and has had an open and transparent partnership.” The the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated staffing challenges in prisons and the department gave MTC permission to use staffing money to increase wages, pay incentive bonuses and for “other alternatives to deal with the situation,” she said.
“Because the contract states that funds for unfilled positions should be returned to the state, and despite previous understandings, MTC voluntarily returned the $5.1 million,” Lawhead said. “We will continue to work hard to provide the highest level of services to the State of Mississippi.”
In November 2022, White issued a $1.9 million demand to MTC, saying the company had nearly 12,000 unfilled mandatory shifts between 2017 and 2020 at Marshall County Correctional Facility. MTC had operated the prison in Holly Springs since August 2012 until the state took control of it in September 2021, according to the Department of Corrections.
White said MTC failed to tell the Department of Corrections that prison staffing had fallen below minimum levels required by contracts.
Dave Martinson, who was MTC’s communications director in November, said then that the company paid vacancy penalties under the terms of the Marshall County Correctional Facility contract, which was amended by the state in December 2017. Martinson said the penalties were deducted from the company’s monthly invoices to the department.
Lawhead said Monday that MTC responded in March to the auditor’s $1.9 million demand related to the Marshall County prison.
White said the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which makes decisions on suing or prosecuting cases, has the auditor’s findings from the November investigation.
(Magnolia Tribune) – On Wednesday, Mississippi State Auditor appeared before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Work and Welfare as part of a hearing titled “Where is all the Welfare Money Going? Reclaiming TANF Non-Assistance Dollars to Lift Americans Out of Poverty.”
White was joined by Tennessee Department of Human Services Clarence Carter, Missouri Department of Social Services Director Robert Knodell, Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam, and Springboard to Opportunities CEO Dr. Aisha Nyandoro.
Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) opened the hearing, saying, “Recently Republicans were able to secure a major victory with the Fiscal Responsibility Act which strengthened work requirements in the direct cash assistance portion of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.”
LaHood said the day’s hearing was meant to address non-assistance spending.
“Non-assistance funding constitutes the majority of the TANF Block Grant, nearly 78% of combined federal and state spending,” Congressman LaHood said. “This is spending that is not for basic assistance or direct checks to welfare recipients. Concerns have emerged that the non-assistance part of TANF lacks guardrails and is not focused on helping people move from welfare to work.”
LaHood said national headlines out of Mississippi have drawn increased (read entire story)
JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – State Auditor Shad White (R-Miss.) said a new report shows how much public universities are spending on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
“I have real concerns about what DEI staff may be teaching or doing at our taxpayer-funded universities,” said White. “For example, during the Trump Administration, President Trump shut down federal government DEI programs because some taught that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism.’ This kind of language tears us apart, not brings us together.”
According to White, Mississippi’s public universities reported (read more)
Jackson, Miss. – A Brandon woman was sentenced to two years of probation for theft of unemployment insurance benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her brother was convicted of conspiring with her to commit wire fraud in obtaining these benefits.
U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, and Special Agent in Charge Mathew Broadhurst of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Southeast Region made the announcement.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Aubrey D. Martinez assisted her brother, John Evans, Jr., in applying for benefits with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. As an inmate in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Evans was not entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Evans is serving a 20-year sentence in MDOC custody for armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the pandemic.
Her brother, John Evans, is scheduled to be sentenced on August 21, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The pair will be required to pay restitution in the amount of $10,732.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly T. Purdie is prosecuting the case.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force (NUIFTF). In response to the unprecedented scope of Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud, the Department of Justice established the NUIFTF. The NUIFTF is a prosecutor-led multi-agency task force with representatives from FBI, DOL-OIG, IRS-CI, HSI, DHS-OIG, USPIS, USSS, SSA-OIG, FDIC-OIG, and other agencies. Members of the NUIFTF are working with state workforce agencies, financial institutions, and other law enforcement partners across the country to fight UI fraud, and consumers should be vigilant in light of these threats and take the appropriate steps to safeguard themselves.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization that expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by COVID-19, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866‑720‑5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Although Jackson’s homicide numbers are currently down compared to this time last year, some say it’s not enough and believe any homicide in the Magnolia State hurts its citizens.
“We have to be for more policing in these vulnerable areas. We have to get tough on violent criminals. We have got to stop catch and release,” said State Auditor, Shad White.
Increased police presence, harsher prison sentences, and making sure criminals stay behind bars were the topics of discussion at River Hills Country Club Thursday afternoon.
Alongside White was Rafael Mangual, an author from New York, who visited Jackson to preach about crime statistics and examples of what can happen when a convicted felon gets too many chances.
“With every single bite of the apple we give to a repeat offender, what we are doing is essentially rolling the dice, but we’re not rolling the dice with our own lives, we’re rolling the dice with the lives of people who are not as fortunate as some of us in this room are,” said Mangual.
Some may have questioned why White was at the discussion conference to begin with, but like most things in life, money is involved.
“For each new homicide that happens in the state of Mississippi, that homicide costs taxpayers in the state between $900,000 and $1.2 million per homicide. That’s coming out of your pocket, whether you live in a crime prone area or not,” said White.
Those are some pretty staggering numbers when you realize Jackson alone accounted for 138 of those homicides in 2022.
“For the last two years, WLBT has reported that the city of Jackson, where were sitting right now. The city of Jackson has the highest number of per capita homicides of any major metro-area in the United States. It’s a tragic fact and most of us know it,” said White.
3 On Your Side asked White if the timing of this discussion had to do with House Bill 1020 being passed two weeks ago. While he said it was “planned well in advance,” HB-1020 passing was “convenient” towards Thursday’s agenda.
Mar. 16—JACKSON — Christi Webb, the former director of the Tupelo-based Family Resource Center, has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of stealing government funds as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, according to court documents.
The documents show that Webb appeared before federal Magistrate Judge Keith Ball in Jackson on Thursday, where she agreed to plead guilty to the charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
It’s unclear if Webb will be required to cooperate with federal investigators and testify against other potential defendants. Court documents show that a supplemental plea agreement outlining Webb’s additional requirements is sealed.
Webbs’ plea is the latest development from a sprawling state and federal investigation into how millions of federal welfare dollars were funneled from the state’s welfare agency through nonprofits to various projects when it was meant to help the state’s poorest residents.
When former Mississippi Department of Human Services Director John Davis pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in September, federal prosecutors appeared to identify Webb as one of his co-conspirators in the welfare scheme.
Casey Lott, Webbs’ previous attorney and current FRC board member, maintained last year that while she led the nonprofit, Webb was the only person who pushed back on Davis’ requests to funnel money to projects not authorized under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
But federal prosecutors continued to make references to the nonprofit in a separate October civil court filing last year saying they were conducting a criminal investigation into how former professional wrestler Theodore “Teddy” DiBiase Jr. used welfare dollars that were funneled to him through the FRC.
Lott told the Daily Journal on Thursday that although he did initially provide legal counsel to Webb during the early stages of the federal investigation, he does not represent Webb anymore.
Webb this week resigned as director of the nonprofit, according to Lott.
Judge Keith Ball recently appointed two federal public defenders to represent Webb because she did not have the financial means to retain her own counsel. The public defenders did not respond to a request for comment.
State Auditor Shad White in 2020 revealed that he provided information to state prosecutors that led to the indictment of six officials connected to a scheme to mismanage funds from the TANF program. Nearly all of those six defendants have pleaded guilty.
“Since my office first uncovered the welfare fraud scandal in 2020, we have been committed to assisting the prosecutors, who make the decisions about whom to charge with a crime,” White said in a statement Thursday. “They are clearly taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers today.”
The state welfare agency through a civil lawsuit is also attempting to recoup welfare funds the FRC allegedly misspent. The nonprofit has said it committed no wrongdoing.
Webb is expected to appear in federal court before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson on June 16 for sentencing. She agreed to an unsecured bond of $10,000.
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – State Auditor Shad White said fatherlessness in Mississippi is one of the root causes of some of the state’s most pressing issues and it’s costing taxpayers hundreds of millions each year.
We talk about Mississippi being 50th in this or 50th in that. We’re going to see that some of the root causes are right here in homes when those homes are not made homes,” White said.
Some of those areas Mississippi ranks among the lowest in the country: health care, education, economy, and infrastructure. White said two of those low rankings are caused by nearly 250,000 Mississippi children who don’t have dads.
“Kids who grow up without an engaged dad in their home are five times more likely to end up in poverty, they’re nine times more likely to drop out of school, they’re 20 times more likely to end up in prison,” White explained.
But how does it hurt the state economy? In a report back in 2022, White said that there were close to 10,000 inmates in Mississippi prisons who didn’t have fathers. As a result, the state spends over $180 million each year on those inmates alone.
“We have the generational curse that is going to continue. What’s gonna happen when this kid gets older, what’s the chances of them going on to college and being successful, very low,” Jack Brewer, Chair of America First Policy Institute Center, explained.
And while that isn’t always the case, White said 70% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes and that will cost over $290,000 in a person’s lifetime in the state.
“If you need extra classes to get caught up, or you drop out, and you need to go through a GED course to get caught up, that’s going to cost the taxpayers money,” White said.
But leaders don’t think this trend will change with just legislation. It’s going to take a societal shift to bridge the gaps.
“If we can get more people to actually mentor or follow this population, in give them some of that love after school or on the weekends, whether it’s sports programs or other activities, I think you’ll see a huge impact on some of the issues you have in Mississippi and across the country,” Brewer explained.
Brewer and White said they met with state leaders Wednesday to discuss some of the ways fatherlessness in Mississippi can be attacked through the legislature.
HINDS COUNTY, Miss. — Hinds County District 2 Election Commissioner Toni Johnson has pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement.
Johnson entered the guilty plea Monday after jury selection began for her trial.
According to the state auditor’s office, Johnson used COVID-19 funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit organization funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to purchase two 85-inch televisions and personal protective equipment, which she purportedly had delivered to her own home and one other private residence.
Two others, Cedric Cornelius and Sudie Jones-Teague, have already pleaded guilty to various counts of bribery of a public official, conspiracy to make/submit fraudulent statements to the government, making/submitting false statements to defraud the government, and making/submitting false writings to defraud the government.
In exchange for Johnson’s guilty plea, the state will recommend a total sentence of 20 years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 15 years suspended and five years of that sentence to be served in the Intensive Supervised Probation Program.
Johnson will also have to pay restitution in the amount of $24,216 with $50,000 to be paid within 60 days of Johnson’s guilty plea.
“Today’s plea brings to a conclusion another example of blatant public corruption uncovered by the Office of the State Auditor and successfully prosecuted by our office, said Hinds county District Attorney, Jody Owens.”
According to the Hinds county district attorney’s office, Jones-Teague and Cornelius are expected to be sentenced in the coming months.