JACKSON, Miss. (Jan. 6, 2017) – Two bills introduced in the Mississippi legislature would halt implementation of Common Core and require legislative approval for all future education standards. Passage of the legislation would take an important step toward nullifying the nationalized education program in the state.
Rep. Ashley Henley (R- Southaven) introduced House Bill 279 (HB279) on Jan. 3. Sen. Angela Burks Hill (R-Picayune) introduced a companion bill in the Senate (SB2035). Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven) also introduced House Bill 357 (HB357) The legislation would prohibit the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education from taking any further action to implement the Common Core and Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards. The legislation also stipulates that “the State of Mississippi shall retain sole control over the development, establishment and revision of curriculum standards.” Under the proposed law, the legislature would have to approve all future curriculum standards.
In addition to ending Common Core implementation, the legislation would bar the state from expending funds from federal Race to the Top grants, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or elsewhere to track students beyond their K-12 education. It would also bar sharing of any personally identifiable information compiled on students or teachers with any entity outside the State of Mississippi, except as provided by the law.
While HB207 would take a step toward ending Common Core in Mississippi, the process is not without potential pitfalls. As Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education said about a similar bill passed in Tennessee, legislatures often do little more than create “rebranded” versions of the same program. Even if the new state standards completely reject Common Core, it doesn’t mean the state won’t continue to allow the federal government to influence its education system. It will require public and legislative vigilance to completely push the feds out of education in Mississippi.
Common Core was intended to create nationwide education standards. While touted as a state initiative through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the U.S. Department of Education was heavily involved behind the scenes. Up until recently, the DoE tied the grant of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to adoption of Common Core, using the standards as powerful strings to influence state educational policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress in 2015 now prohibits the DoE from attempting to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards … or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States.” But under the new federal law, states still must comply with College and Career Ready Standards, based on Common Core, as a condition for receiving some federal dollars. It also requires the federal education secretary to approve each state’s plans for standards and assessments.
Even with the federal strings partially cut from Common Core for the time being, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standard simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.
Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, and freedom. Passage of this legislation into law represents a positive step forward for the people of Mississippi and a path for other states to follow.
HB279 was referred to the House Education Committee. SB2035 was referred to the Senate Education Committee. The legislation will have to pass out of committee by a majority vote before moving on to the full House and Senate for further consideration.