English: Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

The Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition (MSCC) last week met with over 50 political, business and education leaders from across Madison, Rankin and Hinds County to get feedback on issues facing the state. The group has another series of meetings scheduled in Natchez on September 17 and 18, and in Desoto County later in the year.

The luncheon focused on a variety of issues that are key priorities such as Medicaid Reform, reducing the tax burdens on individuals and scaling back burdensome business regulations. An afternoon meeting with Superintendents of Education and administrators from Madison County School District, Rankin County School District and the Pearl School District focused on education, specifically Common Core.

“It is very important for us to create this dialogue directly with educators as we continue looking at education reform,” said MSCC member Senator Josh Harkins. “We want solutions, and you can’t get there without including the people on the ground who see the problems first hand.”

The ongoing debate about implementation of Common Core was a main topic of the afternoon meeting that lasted nearly 3 hours. Members say it is necessary for educators to understand the publics concern over how things have progressed without input or oversight from legislators.

I served on the Education Committee in the Senate when Common Core was adopted by MDE, yet I first heard we were implementing Common Core in Mississippi while on an out of state trip,” said MSCC Policy Chairman Senator Michael Watson. “There is a misconception that we as legislators allowed this to happen, and are now complaining. We didn’t even know about it until well after it was adopted by the Board of Education, and even now we still haven’t been provided the answers to all our questions.”

Federal education mandates that began in the mid-1990’s have continued to put a crunch on educators in states. Mississippi educators are currently working on fully implementing the teaching of a Common Core standard that may not be tested for two more years as the assessments are not yet ready. That puts educators at a disadvantage as they try to teach a standard, then test their students based on a totally different standard at the end of the year.

These mandates from the federal government are becoming more and more burdensome, and more and more problematic,” said MSCC Chairman Senator Chris McDaniel. “This started with the Clinton Administration, continued with Bush, and now the Obama Administration has doubled-down with Common Core. The question becomes how do we stop this spiral of federal intervention in Mississippi’s education that is creating the problem. How do we responsibly take a time-out and work with Mississippi educators to reassess what is best for Mississippi students? That is what our coalition meetings with educators across the state are about.”

MSCC members hope the dialogue created by meeting with educators will carry over into other meetings across the state throughout the end of 2013.

We learned a lot about some of the problems these educators face that will inform how we create legislation to regain some control over our own educational standards in Mississippi,” said MSCC member Senator Angela Hill. “It is well established that I have many issues with Common Core. But, we have to begin focusing on where we go from here. What educators see in the classrooms every day, and how we give them the tools to meet higher expectations without being caught in the middle of federal and state mandates is a top priority.”

MSCC Press Release

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