Where was outrage before Common Core?

Published 12:05 am Friday, December 5, 2014

If you need to understand why state leaders are suddenly joining the national chorus of voices vilifying this current set of education standards, all you have to do is ask yourself, “Where were the politicians when the bar was set so low in Mississippi?”

During Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Rotary Club, Nancy Loome, founder and executive director of the state education advocacy group The Parents’ Campaign, told the group of Natchez business leaders why she thinks the state must fully fund the public education system.

Loome supports a proposed amendment, that if approved by voters in 2015, will require the state to honor the promise it made in 1997 to fund publics school so that all students can get an adequate education.

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At the end of her presentation, Loome answered several questions including one about Common Core, a set of education standards developed by a bi-partisan group of state governors and education leaders. Currently the standards have been adopted by 43 states, including Mississippi.

Just this week, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves did an about-face and removed his support for Common Core. Gov. Phil Bryant also reiterated his opposition to the standards this week.

Loome, who is an advocate for Common Core, said the standards raise the bar for the state’s public school students, something she believes is critical if the state wants to compete with other students across the country and even the world.

Before Common Core the bar was set too low, Loome says. Before the state adopted Common Core in 2010, Mississippi kindergartners were, for example, expected to learn only how to count from 0 to 20.

Before I became a father, I may not have thought much about when children should begin grappling with basic academic concepts. Now that I have a child who learned how to count to 100 in his first semester of kindergarten, I see how important it is to raise expectations and start early to build the foundation on which a child will build knowledge for a lifetime.

Listening to Loome cite other examples of how Common Core raises education standards for students, I wondered why politicians were not clamoring for higher standards before Common Core? If the state scraps Common Core as Lt. Gov. Reeves suggests, then what? Will Mississippi go back to lowering the bar and settle for last place?

Reeves says, “No.” The Lt. Gov. wants to create a task force to develop a set of separate standards for Mississippi’s schools.

Reeves says Common Core has been hijacked by the heavy-handedness from Washington and suggests Mississippi can do better on its own.

Such efforts will cost the state more than the millions of dollars to research and develop the set of standards, not to mention the time and money already spent implementing Common Core. It will cost the state, its school districts and students who already are stepping up to the challenge. As students across the country continue to excel, Mississippi will only study the issue.

Reeve’s suggestions don’t sound much different than the promises of politicians to fully-fund education in 1997. They only succeeded in making good on that promise two of the 17 years the Mississippi Adequate Education law has been on the books.

If Reeves is successful in scrapping Common Core, what are the chances that we will look back another 17 years from now and see another education promise unfulfilled?

Maybe it is time that we raise the bar not only for Mississippi’s schools, but its elected leaders as well.

How long do we have to put up with politicians who say education is a priority without the actions to back it up? Isn’t it time to demand that elected leaders stop playing politics with our public schools?

Don’t we deserve it? Mississippi’s future demands it.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.