BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

The argument from the protectors of the bureaucracy who are against Gov. Phil Bryant using his veto authority to do away with SB 2161 has moved from blind allegiance (But, look so many legislators voted for it. It must be good, right?); to political apology (Sorry, we did the best we could do. We’ll get ‘em next time); to personal attacks (The opposition to SB 2161 is nothing other than some looking for a political issue to champion); to half-hearted attempts to misrepresent the facts completely (But the bill does what the governor said he wanted to do in a speech, doesn’t it?).

The fact that the argument for SB 2161, and against a veto, keeps changing should be enough to raise a red flag. This bill is crap, and those attempting to protect politicians in this election cycle from the wrath of the voters know it. The supporters of the status quo can’t settle on an argument for too long lest it be shown for what it truly is: an empty excuse to try and get past this as soon as possible.

SB 2161 and Common Core has now been referred to as a “wedge issue” from some corners. You know when you hear the term “wedge issue” you’re hearing political speak for “we don’t really want to talk about this anymore.”

Meanwhile, the argument from those who have fought for years against Common Core hasn’t wavered. In the consultant driven world of politics this is often referred to as “staying on message”. But, it also helps that it is the truth based on facts.

Truth based on facts. Yes, I know. That’s not something statists like to hear. But, I’m sorry, I won’t be obliging the attempts to change the discussion to the next flavor of the hour of why SB 2161 is a peach of a bill. It’s not.

Once you get beyond the obvious political land mines laid out to trip up the public–power politicians=good, public asking too many questions=bad, now move on, nothing else to discuss–the arguments of opponents to a veto settle on three basic points, all of which are easily dismantled and dismissed by looking at facts.

  • False Claim #1: SB 2161 removes any participation by Mississippi in the assessment tool for Common Core, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. 

Wrong. SB 2161 offers language that is a half-hearted feign for show. The language reads:

“Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, the State Dept. of Education shall not require school districts to administer the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test or any other consortia developed test.”

Did you catch that? “Shall not require”?

That doesn’t end the PARCC assessment. It sends it underground beneath a layer of bureaucracy where people can’t see the behind the scenes arm-twisting by the Mississippi Dept. of Education and state Superintendent Carey Wright, who incidentally was at one point a PARCC board member and still is a huge supporter of Common Core.

Furthermore–and here’s where it gets tricky–the language about PARCC in SB 2161 is placed in the code section of law as it relates to graduation, not in the section related to school accountability. That leaves open the likelihood that dollars associated with merit pay and accountability measures in school districts can still be attached to a core-aligned assessment.

Give the bureaucrats credit. They know how to hide their schemes.

  • False Claim #2: SB 2161 replaces or ends Common Core standards in Mississippi.

Wrong. SB 2161 creates another layer of bureaucracy by creating a commission to review the standards and make recommendations to the Dept. of Education, of which there is no requirement that MDE even listen. Furthermore, this commission will be made up of political appointments. Wonder whose best interest they will be looking out for?

Already, the group Mississippi First has said they will be offering suggestions to the Governor and Lt. Governor of who they should appoint. This is the same group that has pushed for liberal sex education in schools, and who fought against religious groups being allowed to participate in charter school development.

Mississippi First received funding from the Gates Foundation in the amount of $98,223 in 2013.  The Gates Foundation is the same group that has spent more than the GDP of most small countries to promote Common Core.

The commission created by SB 2161 also won’t allow retired teachers to participate, doing away with a key group of knowledgeable people that, it just so happens, have largely been vocal opponents of Common Core.

Statists love to use legalese to stack the deck in their favor, and that is what SB 2161 does. It leaves open the possibility of a commission stacked with supporters of Common Core, that then are empowered to look at more than math and language standards. They are empowered to review ALL standards, including science standards that could liberalize sex education in Mississippi schools. Bananas and condoms in the classroom, anyone?

No thanks.

  • False Claim #3: SB 2161 prohibits the collection of private data on students or their families.

Wrong again.  One has to read the language of the bill and take a look at earlier versions. Initially the prohibition was on data “collected, tracked, housed, reported or shared”. That was changed in later versions of the bill to remove everything but the term “shared with the federal government without parental consent”.

The language in the section addressing private data goes on to read:

“No personally identifiable student data shall be collected for the purpose of development of commercial products or services without parental consent. No psychological or socio-emotional surveys shall be administered to students or completed by school personnel regarding a particular student without parental consent.”

So, on opening day of school, parents are handed a stack of papers and asked to sign. How many will give their “parental consent” without knowing exactly what this means? And did you notice how the word “shared” disappeared in the latter sentences of the code section related to commercial use? Is this an example of elected representatives protecting the privacy rights of people, or politicians protecting statism, bureaucracy and corporate use of data?

Another reason to worry about data mining is through computerized testing, attendance records, test scores, grades, tardiness and a whole host of other means that separate by race and ethnicity, socio economic background and more. This is then fed into the “statewide longitudinal data system”.

Student data is analyzed by keeping track of nearly every key stroke on a computer. One educational technology software company professional says that through data-mining in education “we literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything.” He calls education “the world’s most data mineable industry by far” and brags that the data is 5-times over what giants like Google can accomplish.

These collection points are built in to the new nationalized system created by the federal government by handing more than $600 million to states over the past ten years. This kind of behemoth isn’t easily changed by a simple throwaway line in a code section of Mississippi law.

SB 2161 is the equivalent of an attempt to use a coffee cup to capture the force of the Mississippi River. It’s not going to happen. Next year the legislators can show up and claim they already dealt with Common Core and it will be more difficult to address it again.

SB 2161 is about putting off the hard work of actually addressing the problem.

If Governor Bryant is as serious about getting rid of Common Core as most Mississippians are, if he truly believes as he said nearly a year ago that “Common Core is a failed program” and that Mississippi needs to “wipe the chalkboard clean” then he should veto SB 2161 and instruct the Mississippi Legislature to get tough and stop playing politics with parental rights, student privacy and education.

The overwhelming majority of Mississippians want out of Common Core. Mississippi’s elected officials should understand the seriousness of it enough to do it, do it now and do it right.

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 or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett


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