Governor Vetoes Commission to Review Common Core in Mississippi

Published April 23, 2015

A large and growing grassroots effort against Common Core has yielded unsatisfying results for many parents, activists, and officials in Mississippi.

Instead of repealing and replacing Common Core, as opponents of the K–12 math and English standards wanted, the state legislature passed legislation that would have formed a commission to review Common Core. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) vetoed the bill on April 23.

If Bryant had signed Senate Bill 2161 into law, a 15-member commission would have made recommendations by December to the state’s Board of Education about what academic standards to use.

Recommendations could have included minor changes or a complete overhaul of the standards, state legislators say. The governor, lieutenant governor, Speaker of the House, and Department of Education would have appointed the commission’s 11 voting members. The other four would have been be nonvoting members.

Hope for the Future

State Sen. Angela Hill (R-Picayune) says she does not understand why Bryant vetoed the bill while creating several other task forces to examine other issues. She says she hopes for a special session to address Common Core or for Common Core repeal-and-replace legislation to pass during the next legislative session.

“The data protections in the bill the governor vetoed were pretty significant, including prohibitions against sharing biometric data, religious and political beliefs, and conducting psychological and socio-emotional surveys on students,” said Hill. “I’ve not seen another privacy bill considered in the Mississippi legislature, though several have been filed over the last couple of years.”

Chamber of Commerce Pressure

Hill says the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), the state’s chamber of commerce, deserves much of the blame for the lack of strong repeal-and-replace legislation.

“I believe the state chamber of commerce’s support of Common Core is the greatest hindrance to getting a strong bill out of the legislature,” Hill said. “[Its] corporate influence has helped shape education policy such as state-funded pre-K and putting more students under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Education, whose track record of immense support for Common Core down to the K–3 level is contrary to the will of the electorate.

“The MEC has the strongest lobbying presence in the legislature,” Hill said. “They do some good work on freeing up businesses from regulation, but they are way off base on supporting Common Core. A group of four senators met with [its] leadership over a year ago to present them with some relevant information on Common Core that they were unaware of.”

An Unwelcome Compromise

Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, says no one seemed happy with the compromise presented in SB 2161.

“A lot of grassroots people, a lot of parents, and a lot of superintendents do not like Common Core, and they want it changed,” said Thigpen. “There are other superintendents who are happy with Common Core.”

Thigpen says MEC was less vocal in its support of Common Core than in previous years.

Reducing Federal Control

Thigpen says there were some positive provisions in SB 2161.

“It certainly takes steps in that direction to mitigate our acquiescence to federal control,” Thigpen said. “The legislation has some student data provisions that would be good. The steps that it takes towards protecting us from a national curriculum are better than no steps being taken in that direction. 

“However, the commission that would be created under this bill has the potential to simply endorse the current standards and not change anything, which would not be good,” Thigpen said, adding there was no way to know whether the commission would have been useful because it would all have depended on who was appointed.

Restoring Local Control

Hill says she is confident Common Core will not remain in Mississippi permanently. Repeal-and replace-legislation will pass or the standards will be dismantled one piece at a time, Hill says.

“The Constitution clearly gives [only] the enumerated powers to the federal government, and education is clearly a power reserved for the states,” Hill said. “The comingling of the powers that are deliberately separated in the U.S. Constitution usurps individual rights as well as state sovereignty.

“How long can a republic last if the Constitution continues to be ignored?” Hill asked. “Redistribution of funds to states with federal mandates attached may be our demise.” 

Heather Kays ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

Image by woodleywonderworks.