BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff @Keithplunkett
It defies sensible thought. It defies common sense. It defies logic.
Have you ever found yourself at a point where you hear or read the statements of someone and it renders you speechless? That kind of mouth-agape, I-can’t-believe-they-thought-they-could-get-away-with-that kind of speechless?
That was my reaction to the statement released by Lt. Governor Tate Reeves upon final passage of Senate Bill 2161 yesterday in the Mississippi Legislature, a bill that, despite all Reeves attempts to brand it as legislation that kills Common Core in Mississippi, does just the opposite of what he says it does.
Did he forget we have an internet now? Did he forget people are now on to the inside political game he’s playing? Does he believe this kind of disdain for public opinion will fly?
And did he forget to instruct his Education Chairman of the talking points he wanted used?
Obviously Senator Gray Tollison, the education chairman in the state senate, had missed Reeves’ memo when he told Bobby Harrison at the Daily Journal that SB 2161 “doesn’t get rid of anything.”
Perhaps it could be chalked up to a simple disagreement between Reeves and Tollison over the issue were it not for the evidence that shows SB 2161 was always a ruse, an attempt to offer political cover in an election year.
Let’s be clear about SB 2161. The bill forms a “toothless” commission of people appointed by the very politicians who supported Common Core a short year ago. The commission will offer recommendations that the Dept. of Education is free to ignore. This bill doesn’t end Common Core. It renames it and creates yet another group of political appointments to help cover for politicians who go-along and get-along with whatever bureaucrats tell them is good policy.
And lets be clear about something else. If the Lt. Governor really believed a federal takeover of education is problematic, as he stated last year when he flip-flopped on Common Core, then he never would have held a rally in 2013 supporting it. This is about money, politics, power and the hopes that he and incumbent supporters of the status quo can keep the government education lobby on their side by passing legislation with a wink and a nod.
You either support local and parental control of education or you don’t. It really is that simple. The tightrope act won’t work on this one. Or will it?
The problems in Mississippi’s education policy that have made us last in the nation, and the actions of bureaucrats to give the feds complete control of standards to keep federal money flowing to friendly pockets, still exist. Those problems, like the embedded politicians who support the policies that created them, have gone nowhere.
If the Lt. Governor is allowed to brand this double-talk as an end to Common Core then it means he has been allowed to give cover to every politician who didn’t have the guts to stand up against it to begin with. It gives them cover in an election year to appear as if they have done something when they have, in fact, attempted only to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.
They will point an unsuspecting and unengaged public to this bill using millions in campaign ad funds and attempt to pass it off as something it is not, something it was never intended to be. I can only imagine the scripts and sound bites are being drafted in the minds of political consultants already.
In the end, the supporters of Common Core curriculum and those who are addicted to federal dollars never again have to bring it up for a vote. Because they already killed it, you see? Look, the ad says it. See what they did?
Are you going to buy it? Are your friends and neighbors going to buy it?
The question for all conservatives now is are we going to allow it? And how do we propose to stop it?
Despite all the political prognostications about who is and is not running, electing new blood and hoping they all do the right thing doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Some of the very people who spoke out against the dangers of federal manipulation of education standards voted for this bill out of self-preservation and fear that they would be targeted by the politically powerful.
Rather, the problem requires public attention and engagement, study and organization, messaging and communication from more than politicians. It requires organization of the type that too many conservatives often don’t or haven’t participated in. And the political class is banking on that.
How do we provide solutions when the political game is more important to elected officials than getting to the root of the problems that our state faces?
The answer is to remember how we got here to begin with, organization, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight TOGETHER! Those are the things that made Common Core the top political issue in Mississippi over the past two years. It started with a willingness of a very few to look past politics and to question the reality of policy. It further became about addressing the issue with objectivity, not political rhetoric. That’s how we got here. That is what worked. It may seem like light years ago now, but no one had ever even heard of Common Core when I first wrote of it in 2012.
Despite the current setback, it should not cause conservatives to give up. If one looks at where we started, it should instead provide inspiration.
The United Conservatives Fund has brought together conservatives from across the state and from across the spectrum of conservative thought. It is currently the only organized effort that working class conservatives have available in Mississippi that can focus the diverse strength of the movement into a force that faces down this type of ridiculous establishment political maneuvering and cronyism.
If the results of the Common Core battle in the Mississippi Legislature truly angers you, if it truly makes you want to stand up and fight, then the choice of what to do next is clear. We must join together and remain focused.
The task is not an easy one to face if conservatives allow themselves to be easily distracted and manipulated. However, our focus on the common goal of defeating Common Core and exposing other manipulations by the political class will win the day if we unify.
Consistent, long-term engagement and strong organization is the answer. UCF is prepared and positioned to be that force for conservatives in Mississippi. Never has an issue and the political response to it illustrated the need so clearly as does the fight against Common Core.
Communication isn’t about saying what we think. Communication is about ensuring others hear and understand what we mean.
Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett