Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has just vetoed an “anti”–Common Core bill. He was right to do so. The bill didn’t do what its backers said it would do: withdraw Mississippi from Common Core. In remarks yesterday, Bryant stated, “I remain firmly committed to ending Common Core in Mississippi. This bill does not accomplish that goal, and I cannot in good conscience sign it into law.”
Indeed, if Mississippi lawmakers were serious about withdrawing from Common Core, they would do three things:
- Assess how Mississippi became embroiled in the national standards and tests in the first place;
- Consider how best to extricate themselves from Common Core so they could move forward; and
- Re-adopt their prior state standards and improve them by borrowing from the best of state standards across the country.
A Meaningless “Remedy”
Regrettably, the legislative “remedy” approved by Mississippi lawmakers did none of these things. Consequently, if the bill had become law, Mississippi schools and students would have remained entangled in the federally backed Common Core briar patch.
As a March 31, 2015, article in The Clarion-Ledger noted, the bill would have established the Mississippi Commission on College and Career Readiness. As everyone knows, the surest way to accomplish nothing is to create a government commission.
The commission’s job would have been to study the standards and then decide whether they should be changed, but the state board of education would not even have been required to consider the commission’s recommendations.
In reality, the proposal would have done little more than rebrand Common Core as the Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards. It would not have disentangled the state from Common Core.
How Mississippi Joined Common Core
So how were Mississippi schools roped into Common Core?
The Mississippi State Board of Education voted to adopt the standards in June 2010 in an attempt to qualify for federal grants and to get a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the existing, onerous federal education program. In the waiver application filed two years later, former Superintendent Lynn House crowed that the Mississippi State Board of Education had voted to “adopt fully the Common Core State Standards.”
Mississippi education officials also underscored the state’s embrace of Common Core when applying for another federal goody: a Race to the Top (RTT) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Ultimately, that application was denied, but the desire to escape from NCLB requirements and to snag RTT funding drove state education officials to adopt the Common Core national standards and tests.
Reclaim State Leaders’ Rightful Role
It’s important to remember that state boards of education were elected or appointed to govern state education policy, not to surrender educational authority to a centralization movement based in Washington, DC. Advocates of federalism should be concerned that their state officials have ceded their authority over educational standards and assessments to distant federal bureaucrats and national organizations. And those standards and assessments drive what is taught in local classrooms.
State leaders should work to reclaim their rightful role in the education of Mississippi’s next generation. They should strengthen state standards and tests, provide school performance information to parents and taxpayers, and empower districts to use assessments that work best for them.
Ultimately, to improve educational outcomes, parents must be empowered to vote with their feet and transfer their children from schools that don’t meet their unique learning needs. Governor Bryant took a tremendous step earlier this year in signing Education Savings Accounts into law for children with special needs, making Mississippi the third state to embrace this innovative and student-centered approach to school choice.
More of that, please. And less looking to Washington for improvement through top-down measures like Common Core.
Exit Common Core
The Board of Education already voted to withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Common Core assessment consortium in January. It’s time to fully exit the Common Core regime so that Mississippians—parents, teachers, community leaders, and state and local officials—can once again help to craft what is taught in schools across the state.
Rebranding the Common Core and creating bureaucratic commissions will not achieve that goal. Nothing short of fully exiting Common Core will do.