Delbert Hosemann’s efforts to help Mississippi school districts maximize their revenue from 16th Section land is not going to generate much attention from voters.
This initiative by the secretary of state is an unsexy, workmanlike endeavor, but it can make a huge difference in improving the finances and the educational offerings of the public schools.
Hosemann, a Republican, is following in the same philosophical line as his Democratic predecessors. Both Dick Molpus and Eric Clark believed that many of the 16th Section leases were skewed to the benefit of the renters, with the school districts and their students being gypped out of a fair return on the farmland, hunting land and commercial lots that were leased out.
That was particularly a problem when Boards of Supervisors were responsible for negotiating the leases, often rewarding their friends with absurdly low leases for as long as 99 years. Those sweetheart deals have been less common since the Legislature years ago transferred that negotiating responsibility to the school boards, but it still happens. It’s the secretary of state’s job to make sure it doesn’t.