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Back in December, Mississippi's Lt. Governor Tate Reeves (a Republican) spoke at a luncheon sponsored by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps. During his speech, Reeves announced that he believes that Mississippi should, at the least, review Common Core standards for the state.
Gov. Phil Bryant approved this statement by Reeves in a press release following Reeves’ announcement: "I thank Lt. Gov. Reeves for joining me in opposing Common Core in Mississippi, and I look forward to working with him and the Legislature to codify the points of my December 2013 Executive Order. That order, which still stands in effect, plainly states that Mississippi has the right to determine its own public school curricula and is under no obligation to comply with any future federal mandates for uniform academic standards. As I said this June, Common Core is a failed program. State-led policies like the Third Grade Gate will have a greater effect in our classrooms than one-size-fits-all bureaucratic standards controlled by Washington.”
“Mississippi children deserve standards developed by teachers and parents,” stated Reeves at the luncheon.
In the 2014 legislative session the Reeves-led Senate rejected efforts by some senators to abandon the math and English arts standards, though at the time Reeves said he was monitoring the progress of the curriculum, and how it was implemented across the state.
This press release started a fire in Mississippi. Leaders of the State as well as County Conservative Coalitions, the Tea Party, and other conservative grassroots groups in Mississippi began to plan for the upcoming Legislative session. Legislators, specifically senators that are members of the coalition started by Chris McDaniel began writing bills that would abolish common core in MS. No one really knew what to believe, with Lt. Gov. Reeve’s track record, it was all a test.
Two key women were in the fight and got to work planning events to inform parents and educators about the dangers of the standards. Brandie Correro and Marsha Babb planned workshops, meetings, and ultimately opening up the 2015 Legislative session by letting our MS legislators know that we will hold them accountable.
On January 6th, over 200 constituents from all over the state joined together for the MS FREE event and rallied against common core. This event was covered by local and national media, and included speeches from Gov. Phil Bryant, Sen. Michael Watson, Sen. Angela Hill, and Rev. C.L. Bryant. Lt. Gov. Reeves did not attend this event. The day was ended by Students releasing 82 red balloons in honor of the students in all 82 counties.
Senators Hill and Watson worked together with parents and educators to write legislation that would abolish Common Core in MS, this bill did not pass through committee.
In early January Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn introduced a bill to repeal the Common Core State Standards and replace it with a Mississippi-specific set of standards for K-12 students.
House Bill 156 would “delete the requirement that the state Department of Education form a single accountability system by combing the state system with the federal system.” It also would rename the state’s standards “Mississippi College and Career-Ready Standards”.
Gunn also introduced a bill, HB 385, to replace the end-of-year assessment developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, with the ACT test. Both of these bills later died in committee.
Three days later the state board of education voted on the PARCC testing, and the renaming of MS state education standards. PARCC was repealed and the standards were renamed. Bryant and Reeves later praised this action in separate statements.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright serves on the board of PARCC and at the time it was unclear whether or not she would resign her position on the state board due to MS exiting the testing.
On Wednesday, March 11th the MS House passed a bill that would assemble a commission to examine the standards. The bill, which originated in the Senate, sailed through the House with a vote of 79-37, and waits on a motion to reconsider. House education chair John Moore (R-Brandon) said the motion likely will not affect the bill's passage, but some amendments may be added before it goes back to the Senate.
Updates will come as this bill goes forward.