College Board names Glenn Boyce as higher education chief

The College Board is naming former Holmes County Community College President Glenn Boyce as permanent higher education commissioner.

The board announced Boyce Friday after choosing Boyce in executive session Thursday.

Boyce has been serving as associate commissioner for academic affairs since June. Before that, he had served as president of Holmes Community College since 2005.

The board had named Mississippi University for Women President Jim Borsig as commissioner, but Borsig said April 9 that he wanted to remain as leader of the Columbus university instead.

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Mississippi chooses Minnesota company for standardized tests

Minnesota-based Questar Assessment will provide most of the standardized tests for Mississippi beginning next year.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to award a one-year contract worth $12.3 million to Questar. Mississippi has options to continue the contract for nine more years after that, with a total 10-year cost of at least $111 million.

The company will provide English and math tests for grades 3-8, as well as algebra I and English II exams to be taken by high school students. The plan also includes options, which would cost more money, for geometry and algebra II tests for high-schoolers.

Other bidders included Pearson PLC and Data Recognition Corp.

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Tupelo politico Glenn McCullough’s name floated as new MDA director but Guvs office doesn’t confirm. 

Glenn L. McCullough Jr., former mayor of Tupelo and chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board, has been offered the job as the next executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, according to a source familiar with the situation.

McCullough said in a telephone interview with the Mississippi Business Journal  Thursday afternoon that “the MDA is very important to Mississippi, and it’s important to Gov. Bryant so I’ll just have to refer you to Gov. Bryant for any comment.”

Nicole Webb, communications director for Gov. Phil Bryant, said in a telephone interview that “the governor has not made a decision, to the best of my knowledge.”

The MDA announced on April 8 that Brent Christensen would resign as director and report as head of the Greensboro Partnership in North Carolina by June. 1. Christensen has held the job for three years.

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Judge to rule on “public use” of taxpayer money as collateral for loans on private development in Jackson case. 

How “public purpose” should be defined under Mississippi’s urban renewal laws is a question Hinds Chancery Judge Michael Singletary is thinking over.

The question is at the heart of a challenge to the use of tax dollars as collateral for loans on a Westin hotel planned for downtown Jackson.

In a hearing before Singletary April 9, lawyers for the City of Jackson argued the state’s urban renewal laws allow a “public use” designation to be put on deals that have public backing for a private project in a redevelopment zone. The potential benefit the hotel provides to the goal of restoring a blighted area gives the project its public purpose, city lawyers said.

Hence, the City can allocate $10 million in general fund money to the JRA to back revenue bonds for the hotel, they said.

Singletary scheduled the hearing after Jackson real estate developer Don Hewitt challenged the arrangement the City made with the JRA for providing $10 million in bond support to Capital Hotels Associates, a group of investors who plan to build the 204-room Westin with a redevelopment zone at 315 Tombigbee St. Singletary has promised to rule promptly.

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More hide-and-seek by MDE: Announcing preferred assessment vendor today after refusing to release names of contract bidders. 

The Clarion-Ledger on March 17th requested the names of vendors vying for a multi-year contract to administer statewide assessments to tens of thousands of elementary and secondary public school students in Mississippi.

MDE plans to announce its preferred vendor to the state Board of Education on Thursday – one month after receiving the proposals and three weeks after denying the newspaper’s public records request.

The deal is worth an estimated $8.4 million per year, based on the amount of the current one-year contract, which MDE awarded under emergency provisions to Pearson in September.

MDE solicited the proposals in February after the state Personnel Services Contract Review Board rejected the agency’s original plan to give Pearson a sole-source, multi-year contract. The board said MDE should have solicited proposals.

Plagued by controversy since last year, MDE’s handling of the testing contract drew additional scrutiny after allegations surfaced last month that it deliberately wrote its request for proposals so that only one company – Pearson – would qualify.

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Meridian Democrat says punishing teachers who cheat “criminalizes educators”. 

As state testing continues, a local legislator is raising concerns about a new law in Mississippi that he says criminalizes educators. It’s Senate Bill 2258. Later this month Governor Phil Bryant is expected to officially sign the measure into law.

“With us having a teacher shortage in Mississippi why would we want to continue to run people away,” says Representative Charles Young, Jr., from Mississippi House District 82.

Young, who is a democrat from Meridian, says Mississippi Senate Bill 2258 will run good educators away from the state.

It’s a measure that could result in a felony conviction for teachers and principals who are found guilty of submitting false certification about following all state testing requirements. Such a conviction could lead to up to three years in prison and a maximum $15,000 fine.

“It says that at the end of the testing period the principal must sign an affidavit acknowledging, and attesting to the fact that there have been no instances of malfeasance in their school,” says Young. “Now, I don’t know about you, but for me to think about having to be responsible for more than myself, be it two people, three people, or 100 people, how can the principal attest that all of his educational staff has not knowingly or unknowingly committed one of these offenses?”

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Schools preparing for Third Grade “Reading Gate”.

(Hundreds of schools) across the state are preparing their students for the Third Grade Reading Summative Assessment — otherwise known as the third grade reading gate.

The test makes sure students are ready to move on the fourth grade, and hold them back if they are not. Kymyona Burk is the state literacy director at the Mississippi Department of Education.

“The assessment will contain 50 multiple choice items,” says Burk. “These items will range from phonics, vocabulary, those reading foundational skills and of course through text comprehension.”

Around 40,000 students will take the exam. Of the 40,000, officials believe as many as 6,000 students could fail the exam. That number is based on the results of previous year’s assessments. Since 2013, lawmakers have appropriated more than $20 million to go towards improving reading scores and hiring literacy coaches. 

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Potential special session issues stacking up. 

Gov. Phil Bryant before the 2015 legislative session ended April 2 dropped hints he might at some point call lawmakers back into special session to reconsider his workforce training proposal that died.

Since then, the list of issues state leaders, lawmakers and others want added to any special call has grown. Common Core, tax cuts and credits, police body cameras, joining an “SEC presidential primary” — if Bryant were to call a session and put all requested items on the agenda, such a session could last for weeks. This probably wouldn’t be popular with many lawmakers who are busy campaigning for re-election this year.

Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb on Monday said the governor is “judicious” in considering special sessions and has made no decision.

“Any potential topic must stand on its own merit,” Webb said. “Things like response to a natural disaster or support for a major economic development project would certainly be priorities.”

Bryant recently said “there’s a possibility of putting several things together” for a session.

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MCDANIEL: Cruz, Paul and Extremism

BY: Chris McDaniel @senatormcdaniel

Those of us who follow the tenets of conservatism know the tired, worn-out campaign catchwords and phrases well: Extremist, Radical, Fanatic, Zealot, Racist, Arsonist.

And the sad part is that most of these insults originate not from Democrats but from our fellow Republicans, who engender despicable primary disputes, making the Left’s job much easier in general elections.

This is precisely why Ronald Reagan crafted his famous 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.

Reagan, however, was not implying that we should never criticize or even challenge other Republicans, as he himself challenged a sitting GOP President in 1976, only that we should refrain from the kind of harsh and vile attack lines that Democrats utilize against us.

Although the 2016 presidential race is more than a year away, anti-conservative mudslinging is already in full swing. Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was minutes old when the Establishment piled on him with full force and vigor, with the essence of their assaults being that he was too extreme to win the nomination or the general election. And when Senator Rand Paul announced his candidacy, he too was immediately ridiculed.

Unfortunately, I am familiar with such tactics. In my 2014 campaign for US Senate, I did not denigrate Thad Cochran with attack words. I respected him and showed him the courtesy he deserved. But in his few public remarks, Cochran used harsh rhetoric, calling me an “extremist” who was too “dangerous” to serve in Washington, an attack promoted by the Huffington Post.

The Cochran camp then took the smear strategy to new heights during the three week run-off in June and convinced thousands of our fellow Mississippians, mostly Democrats who crossed over to save his candidacy, that I was somehow a racist who wanted to throw the poorest people out in the street, take away all government programs, and even close down the shipbuilding industry on the coast. Nothing could be further from the truth.

With such vile accusations, it appears some of our fellow Republicans would prefer to see a Democrat in office rather than those who follow conservative principles without apology.

So, that begs the question, since they never define the term: What does it mean to be an extremist?

What is more “extreme,” a desire to balance the budget quickly by eliminating unnecessary and wasteful spending, thereby stopping the spiraling national debt; or an insistence on continuing the current level of spending without regard to future generations until our economy collapses because of a Keynesian belief that government has a major role to play in the economy?

Who is more “zealous,” a conservative who wants to reform entitlements so that they will exist for youth of today; or an establishment politician who sides with Democrats in denouncing as “extreme” any conservative plans to institute true reform?

Who is more “radical,” an officeholder who desires to uphold his oath of office and follow all of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, as written by our Founders and ratified by every state in the Union; or one who employs a cafeteria approach and believes we can choose which parts of the Constitution to follow and which ones to ignore, choosing only to value liberty when it is convenient?

Who should be considered an “arsonist,” a candidate who believes in the rule of law, that America is a nation governed by laws and not men; or one who believes appointed federal judges can and should fabricate law at will?

Who is more “dangerous,” a candidate who believes that every child, born or unborn, is a gift from God and who has a longing to save the life of every child in the womb, ensuring unborn children all the rights enumerated in the Constitution; or one who compromises such sacred principles in order to win an election?

What is more “fanatical,” one who wants to gradually end our unsustainable welfare state and improve our economy so that those on public assistance can obtain good, high-paying jobs, climb the ladder of opportunity, and achieve the American Dream; or one who wants to keep a failed system in place and mire the poor in more poverty, misery, and squalor with no way to escape?

To accept the argument that Cruz and Paul are radicals is to abandon common sense and traditional conservative thought, not to mention the national GOP platform. To believe the smear of their “unelectability” is to effectively acknowledge the end of the Reagan revolution.

So why the internal strife? Why are conservatives vilified?

Candidates like Cruz and Paul love and value our country more than our party, while the established order often places the party above the country. Put simply, some see the party as an engine that can help them get rich off the backs of the taxpayers, and it shows with their policies. Even worse, establishment politicians tend to worship power, prestige, personalities and large corporate donors more than they value the party’s core principles.

But conservatives adhere to principles and see the party not as a machine for self-aggrandizement and personal advancement but as a means of promoting liberty, the lasting interests of all the people.

Adherence to conviction makes us targets.

But it is a worthwhile fight and one we must win.

Chris is an attorney, conservative commentator and was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014. He has represented the 42nd District, which encompasses part of South Mississippi, since 2008. He resides with his family in Ellisville, Mississippi.

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PULLMAN: For Almost All Kids, Preschool Is an Unnecessary Luxury

“Pre-K Isn’t About Family Needs, It’s About Social Planning”

BY: Joy Pullman

There are several reasons preschool-pushers deliberately harness middle-class parents’ largely needless anxiety about their tiny offspring. First, they need middle-class people on board, because they need our votes to enact what is really another welfare program. The available preschool research at best suggests it may help the small (but unfortunately growing, thanks to society’s choice to ignore family breakdown) proportion of kids who are born into destructive homes. No research suggests preschool is better for small children than a caring, stable family.

This is, however, not as persuasive an argument to the tax-paying public as the argument research does not support, which is the same deception New York City officials are trying to feed everyone: Pretty much every kid should be in preschool, and the more time he spends out of his home, the better. This simply isn’t true. If anything, a child benefits most from a strong attachment to his family, and children naturally need and seek a lasting bond with one (or two) primary caregiver(s). In the early years, that’s usually mom. Preschool teachers and nannies come and go, but mom is always there. And young ones need and deserve her presence.

Second, preschool-pushers benefit from moms’ and dads’ anxiety about and ignorance of their importance to their children and, through grounding and nurturing those children, to society at large. When men and women measure their worth by their paychecks and the material goods those paychecks can buy, they will jettison other commitments. They’ll also do so when society tells people marrying once a baby is on the way is not necessary. Usually, the effects don’t appear until later, when children begin to act out and drop out in middle and high school. And the rest of us do indeed pay, in both a fraying culture and to sponsor anti-bullying, mental-health, welfare, job training, elder-care, and anti-crime programs.

Third, preschool-pushers play on our belief that someone else can and should raise children better than those whose love brought those children into existence, our belief that “society” or “experts” or anything somewhere, anywhere else besides in our homes and communities are the appropriate entities for handling individual concerns. It’s very attractive, but also lazy and ignorant, to presume that someone else will handle my affairs for me better than I can do so myself. It’s a pervasive and genteel cover for avoiding personal responsibility.

Especially when it comes to personal matters such as child-raising, however, the people who know best are those who are most intimately involved. This is not just a demonstrably proven economic concept sometimes called the information problem; it’s also a social concept called individual liberty, which has a corollary called self-government. You can’t get more intimate with a child than having spawned and nourished it within your very own body. A child’s father and mother can’t get more intimate than doing the thing that makes babies come alive. Our natural responsibility for children doesn’t end when they exit the birth canal, just as their natural responsibility for us doesn’t enter when they leave our homes for the wide world. And the best societal arrangements respect these realities rather than attempting to chop them to pieces.

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