Tag Archives: lieutenant governor

Initiative 42: Are You Fed Up with being Manipulated Yet?

Initiative 42 is the result of nearly 200,000 Mississippians signing petitions to have an initiative placed on the November ballot to amend the state Constitution.   If passed, this citizen led initiative will hold the Mississippi Legislature accountable for keeping its promise to fully fund public schools, which the Legislature has fulfilled only twice in the past 18 years. That should be simple enough; however, Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn have used their power and position to help confuse the public about the Initiative. Why? Such action is contrary to statements the Governor has made in the past regarding the public’s role in education. For example, in a December 2, 2014 article by The Associated Press, Governor Bryant said the “public” is in charge of education. But, if he truly believes the public is in charge of education, why is he campaigning against the charge of close to 200,000 Mississippians?   He has also advocated for parental choice in education. However, if he is pro parent choice, why does he oppose Initiative 42, which is supported by parents who have made a “choice” to stand up for public school funding? If he truly believes in parent choice and believes the public is in charge of education, why hasn’t he stepped aside and let the public decide the issue without his political interference?

The reason is simple! In maybe the truest statement by the Republican leadership since the Initiative 42 debate began, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves in an October 22 article by Valerie Wells, published in the Hattiesburg American, stated Initiative 42 is a struggle for power rather than funding. “It’s not about funding,” Reeves said. “It’s about power.” Although Republicans would like for the public to believe Initiative 42 is about Democrats versus Republicans, black versus white, or a power hungry chancery court judge in Hinds County usurping the sovereignty of the state, those are simply smokescreens! The truth is as Reeves stated, “It’s about power.” For the political leadership in Jackson, this issue is about the power and control of the people to hold the state Legislature accountable to the law versus the power and control of the state Legislature to do as it pleases with no boundaries or accountability.

Although fear of losing “power and control” may be at the heart of the Republican opposition to Initiative 42, we must be careful their struggle to maintain power does not overshadow the original purpose of the grassroots initiative led by the people of Mississippi. Power was the furthest thing from the minds of the citizens who signed the petitions to place Initiative 42 on the ballot. Their intent was to help struggling teachers reach all children – poor, middle class, rich, black, and white; their intent was to keep public education alive. Unfortunately, at times, that intent seems to have been lost beneath the clouds of political smoke swirling around such issues as top heavy school districts and school consolidation. We need to save those discussions for another day. Besides, no one in Jackson has any intentions of tackling those political time bombs in the near future; such issues are simply there to confuse and divide the public.

In an era where a good education is a prerequisite for success in life, the idea anyone would not support funding education is mind boggling. At a time when Mississippi needs everyone working together to pull our state from the clutches of poverty by creating an educated work force with more options than unemployment or a minimum wage existence, it is unbelievable we have elected officials who refuse to make education a priority. In a state as untrusting of government as Mississippi, it is beyond belief the citizens would tolerate a governor and state legislators who believe they are above the law. At a time when the public has the opportunity to remind the state Legislature that they are not only in charge of public education as Governor Bryant says, but they are in charge of their elected representatives in Jackson as well, it is unthinkable politicians might actually get their way and not be held accountable to the law.

As a state, we should be ashamed for having this debate. It is disgraceful some would put politics above the needs of our children. It is appalling some people look for excuses not to support education rather than look for reasons to support it. It is disappointing Mississippi citizens needed to sign petitions to put an initiative on the ballot to force elected officials to do their jobs and follow the law. And, it is reprehensible public officials would use or condone the use of half-truths, fabrications, and scare tactics to misguide the public. It is unfortunate, but the current struggle for power and education funding resembles a throwback to the Mississippi of the 1950’s and 1960’s rather than the new enlightened Mississippi we have struggled to become since those dark days.

In spite of this apparent throwback, we are a more enlightened people! We have made tremendous strides since the 50’s and 60’s, but as the Initiative 42 issue has shown, we still have a long way to go in regard to our attitudes toward education, race, and our future. Too much of our past biases still lurk in who we are as a state. Hopefully, additional time will further eradicate those prejudices from us – at least from our children. Nevertheless, I believe for the most part Mississippians are good people who strive to do what is right. We are proud people often recognized as the most benevolent state in the nation! Mississippians are quick to come to the aid of others, whether they are in this country or countries halfway around the world. Mississippians have always generously given to those in need. It so happens, our children are the ones in need this time. It is time we looked in our own backyard and shared our benevolence with our own family. It is time we stood by our children and their teachers; there is no better place to share your generosity and compassion than with those who live in your backyard.

I pray the people of Mississippi will stand up for Initiative 42 and not be led astray by professional politicians with political agendas that often exclude what is best for our state. With Initiative 42, public school education has a chance to be funded as required by law; without it, the chances are slim and none. If you don’t want to vote for Initiative 42, that is your right, but if that is your choice, why not at least do the next best thing and vote those politicians committed to sabotaging public education out of office? Citizens concerned for education and the future of Mississippi need to send a message one way or the other that we are fed up with political manipulation not only at the federal level but at the state level as well.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD. October 29, 2015

Advertisements

Mississippi Bullies and the Common Core Carousel

Educators are not perfect, but it is rare to find one who does not care for children and have their best educational interests at heart. They devote themselves to years of rigorous training to become knowledgeable education leaders in the classroom as well as knowledgeable school administrators. Yet, some politicians would have the public believe Mississippi educators are not equipped or competent enough to make educational decisions for what is best for Mississippi children. The recent comments by Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves promoting kicking the Common Core Standards out the door and setting up a task force composed of parents and legislators to rewrite the Standards is a prime example of their lack of confidence in the expertise of Mississippi educators. While educators across the state from the State Superintendent of Education down voice their support for the Standards, Bryant and Reeves have turned a deaf ear to them. When asked to clarify their opposition to the Common Core Standards, Bryant and Reeves point to the failed argument that the Standards are Obama’s standards and not the State of Mississippi’s standards. Although it has been pointed out again and again that the President had nothing to do with writing the Standards, Bryant and Reeves refuse to dismount that dead horse. It is unfortunate that their Obamaphobia blinds them to the promise of a better education and future that the Common Core Standards hold for the children of Mississippi.

These two politically motivated self-proclaimed education gurus also claim the Common Core Standards are too confusing and frustrating for parents to understand, so the standards must be thrown out or at least dumbed down – excuse me I meant to say amended.   However, as anyone with any common sense knows, the truth behind the frustration with the Standards can be directly linked to Mississippi’s failed education standards of the past. Maybe if Mississippi teachers had all along been teaching to standards half as rigorous as the Common Core Standards, there would be far less confusion and push-back against the Standards. Teachers who have embraced the Common Core Standards say it is the adults who are having the biggest problem with the Standards – not the children. But, maybe Common Core Standards are not really the issue at all; maybe the only real issue is Obamaphobia. I wonder if George W. Bush was still in office if the Common Core Standards would be an issue at all.

In another recent example of education sabotage, Governor Bryant openly doubted the authority of the State Superintendent of Education and subsequently the State Board of Education to make decisions about education policy. In his clueless overreach of his own authority, he said the power to make educational decisions and policy lay with the public and the state legislature and not the State Superintendent of Education. It is ironic that the Governor cries out against the tyranny of federal intervention in state affairs every chance he gets, yet he has little problem exercising his own brand of tyranny over the Mississippi Department of Education and educators in general. His lack of support for educators and the whimsical support of education by Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves are knives in the backs of educators who blindly voted for them in the last election. Unfortunately, if the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have their way, the real bloodletting of public education in Mississippi may have only just begun.

With the negativity and abuse continually directed at educators, it is a wonder anyone still wants to be a teacher. The ones still teaching are a testament to their dedication to the profession, their abuse repelling thick skin, and their love for the children they teach. Of course, educators know from the start that the life of an educator is not easy – never has been nor will it ever be. They enter the profession knowing they will never be paid adequately for the long hours they devote to their students, and that they will spend more time with other people’s children than they do their own.  Despite their sacrifices, teachers understand they will rarely receive the respect they deserve; however, they should at least be able to count on the respect and support of a governor and lieutenant governor they helped elect and not be cast as a scapegoat for political gain.

Educators work in a society where education is undervalued, and the political and public perception is a student succeeds in spite of the teacher and fails because of the teacher. Such views are disrespectful and are a major reason at least half of all educators leave the profession within the first three to five years.  Why stay in a profession where the political and public opinion is so sour toward your profession? Why stay in a profession where the opinion of every local yokel holds more educational clout than the opinions and expertise of educators? We trust our automobiles to the expertise of a mechanic; we trust the construction and safety of the many bridges we travel to the expertise of an engineer; we trust our physical well-being to the expertise of a medical doctor; so, doesn’t it stand to reason we should trust educational decisions impacting the future of our children to the expertise of educators? After all, the mechanic, the engineer, medical doctor and educator are the experts in their fields. If an educator’s expertise is always in question, why should a young educator stay in the profession? Why stay in a profession where the Governor and Lieutenant Governor believe they know more about education and what is best for children than the education experts? I wonder if any of the education naysayers in this state ever stop to think about what they are doing to public education. By itself, the number of educators leaving the profession is enough to show the crippling impact of negativism on public education in Mississippi as well as on the nation.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s low regard for Mississippi’s educators is appalling, especially their total disregard for the constitutional authority of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education to make educational decisions and policy. Also, their disdain for standards designed to teach children to reason and think on their own is absolutely beyond comprehension. However, just as appalling and beyond comprehension is that Mississippi educators tolerate their disrespect. The words and actions of the Governor clearly demonstrate he regards educators as second class citizens not worthy of an equal voice with the general public. When he speaks about the public, he is referring to the public who will re-elect him for a second term and not educators. He understands politics and knows historically educators, due to their lack of unity, are not a threat to him or his policies. Why cater to the lambs when there are so many hounds and the wolves prowling at his door?

The perception of educators as second class citizens is not likely to change unless educators are willing to take a stand against political hypocrisy, and Mississippi’s two-hundred year love affair with ignorance! Sometimes in Mississippi, we seem to be so proud of our legacy of ignorance and so in love with the past that we are blind to the future passing us by. Thankfully, educators are in the business of stamping out ignorance, but ignorance is like a forest fire.  Once out of control, it is almost impossible to get it back under control until it has burned itself out.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the “good ole boy” induced ignorance that has engulfed education in this state is anywhere near burning itself out. That is indeed unfortunate since Mississippi’s children can no longer afford to lose ground academically to the rest of the nation and world.

So what can be done? The first thing that has to happen if educators are to get the respect they deserve is they must stand up for themselves! The Governor believes education belongs to the public, so educators must show him they are an integral vote casting, tax paying part of the public as well. Educators need to unite and speak out LOUDLY! They need to speak out until they are heard and changes in attitudes and policies are made that provide a healthy education system for the children of Mississippi as well as respect for the state’s educators. There is more good happening in education in this state than “good ole boy” politicians such as Bryant and Reeves would have people believe. Regrettably, teachers do such a poor job of marketing themselves and the good they do that the good is often lost in the ever swirling clouds of political smokescreens.

Politicians such as Bryant and Reeves continually manipulate and create their own press by telling the people what they want the people to believe. When it comes to what is happening in education, the majority of the public knows only what they hear on the ten o’clock news and read in the newspapers. They believe the negative about education because that is what they hear and read the most. So, for public education to survive, it is critical for educators to create their own press. They must use every means available to promote the positives about their profession and themselves. They must make a concentrated effort to ensure the public hears and sees the good that is happening in public school classrooms. It is time for Mississippi educators to shed the lamb’s skin, and take on the mantle of the lion. It is time to tell Bryant and Reeves to leave their politics out of education, and let those who have the credentials to teach and make decisions about education do their job. If educators do not unite and speak out for themselves, there will be no end to the present Common Core carousel until it crashes and burns along with our children. If educators do not unite and speak out for themselves, there will be no end to the constant political bullying they receive at the hands of politicians such as Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 12, 2014