By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog
Common Core in Mississippi might be on the chopping block if Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has his way.
Reeves told Mississippi Watchdog in a phone interview Monday he supports scrapping Common Core and replacing it with another curriculum.
The Republican said he wants to form a task force of parents, teachers and business leaders to investigate a new curriculum to replace Common Core, which has been under fire in the state by the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition and others.
Reeves said he’s inspired to junk the curriculum because of Oklahoma’s experience with Common Core. The state lost its waiver from the most onerous standards of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act for returning to its old curriculum, but later appealed and got its waiver back.
“Oklahoma was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Reeves said. “They (the federal government) was going to penalize Oklahoma’s kids because their leaders wanted a better approach. That final decision by the U.S. Department of Education that convinced me what started as a state-led initiative has been hijacked by the Obama administration. I just don’t believe we can accept this heavy-handedness from Washington.”
The move aligns Reeves, who could face a primary challenge from the right in 2015, with other Republicans in the region. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has stated his opposition to the curriculum and signed an executive order in 2013 to ensure the state and not the federal government would be in charge of developing a new curriculum. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken his state off the new standards.
Bryant applauded the move in a statement and called Common Core a “failed program.”
Mississippi adopted the new standards for math and science in 2010 — one of 46 states participating — and testing of students was to begin in 2015. The Mississippi Department of Education said in a statement that junking Common Core would be “changing the playbook in the middle of the game” and could be costly. Last year, the state spent $694,000 implementing Common Core.
The Reeves-led Senate defeated an amendment added by Conservative Coalition members to the education funding bill to defund the implementation of Common Core. The measure was defeated by a 39-11 vote.
Reeves was quick to correct any notion he was changing his views on Common Core.
“I don’t believe I’ve changed my position,” Reeves told Mississippi Watchdog. “My position has been for numerous years now that I felt like we should monitor the implementation (of Common Core), but I don’t think you’ll find me quoted anywhere saying that I supported it.
“My argument was let’s see what the implementation looks like and ensure that there was no overreach by the federal government within that implementation.”
The move drew praise from Grant Callen, president and founder of Empower Mississippi, a school choice advocacy group.
“I am a firm believer in the notion that education decisions must be made locally, by those who know a child the best, which is why I’m such a strong advocate for education choice,” Callen told Mississippi Watchdog in an e-mail. “Parents know their children best and they ought to be the ones making decisions about what school they attend.
“The inevitable result of Common Core, or any national curriculum, is that education decisions about education will be made at the national level instead of the local level or by parents. So I applaud the Lt. Governor for his decision to work to end Common Core in Mississippi and am especially encouraged to hear that he wants to include parents on the study committee charged with coming up with new standards.”
Also, Reeves told the Stennis Capitol Press Forum on Monday he intends to support the Special Needs Bill, which died in the House near the end of last year’s session. The bill would create a voucher system to enable parents of children with special needs to send them to a private school with a certified and specific program unavailable in public schools.