Governor Phil Bryant says the majority of the public is against the Common Core Standards, so he and the state legislators are obligated to help the public get what it wants by ousting the standards from state schools. However, when a petition requiring Mississippi fully fund education by amending the state constitution was signed by over 116,000 certified voters, the Governor hedged on supporting the public’s will in favor of supporting an alternative proposal by the state legislature designed to confuse the issue and almost assuredly defeat the public initiative. What gives? Does the Governor support the public or not? He is clear about his opposition to the Common Core Standards, and it is obvious he doesn’t support fully funding MAEP. So, when it comes to education, what does he support; what does he really want? He says he wants to see results. He claims too much money has been thrown at education with too little to show for it. He argues money is not the answer, but how would he know since he has played a significant role in short changing Mississippi K-12 education by 1.5 billion dollars over the past several years. His argument for results before funding or standards doesn’t hold water; to get results that lift Mississippi off the bottom of student performance, there must be adequate funding and rigorous standards in place, but maybe results are not the real reason behind his war on education.
Educators across Mississippi agree there is room for improvement, and they would like nothing better than to provide the Governor and state legislators the results they want to see. However, they are met with resistance from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and state legislators at every turn. Why? It would be hard to believe the legislators are diabolical people out to get educators, but something smells in Mississippi. It seems the mindset in Jackson is to do whatever it takes to tear down K-12 education in the state, but to what end? Why are so many state legislators opposing more rigorous standards and full funding for education in one breath while calling for better student performance results in another? Many of these people are business men and women, so they should understand that outcomes are achieved in direct proportion to what you put in – whether it is in private business or education. You get what you pay and prepare for, so what gives in the Mississippi legislature?
It is becoming clear that opponents in the state legislature to rigorous standards and full funding of education want to keep Mississippi where it has been for over a hundred years – on the bottom educationally and economically. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor and many state legislators have never had any intention of fully funding education nor have they been serious about improving rigor and student achievement in the classroom. They want to ensure the present balance of the “haves” and the “have nots;” that is where their power lies, but of course, there is no balance between the two. Without rigorous education standards to challenge the state’s children as well as adequate funding to keep quality teachers in the classrooms, pay for resources and programs, and maintain adequate facilities, Mississippi is guaranteed to maintain its current socioeconomic imbalance, cheap labor force, and the submissive “Yes, Master” mentality of the poor. Adam Smith who is often cited as the “father of modern economics,” probably said it best, “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” In Mississippi the aspirations of the “have nots” have never known equality with the “haves,” nor can they ever hope or dream of true equality in their fight for true liberty and pursuit of happiness without an education to give wings to their aspirations. Without properly educating all children, Mississippi’s perennial position of last in just about every education and economic category will continue unabated.
If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the many legislators who have made it clear they have given up on children, teachers, and Mississippi education as a whole get their way, the only thing we will need to seal the deal as permanent bottom dwellers will be a state symbol for education in Mississippi. We have a state bird, state flower, and maybe soon even a state book. All these symbols, the mockingbird, the magnolia, and the Bible tell who we are as Mississippians. If the Common Core Standards are cast out and full funding of MAEP is not upheld, maybe the perfect state symbol for education would be a crumbling school house. What symbol would better explain our state leadership, our priorities, and who we are as Mississippians?
©Jack Linton, January 18, 2015