Bryant’s criticism of Common Core raises questions

booksJACKSON — Gov Phil Bryant appeared to ratchet up his rhetoric against the Common Core academic standards yesterday, calling them “failed.” But late in the evening, a spokeswoman said his position had not changed, intensifying questions about whether Bryant’s statements would actually open the door to the standards’ repeal in Mississippi.

Critics say Common Core is a federal takeover of education, and in December, Bryant adopted an executive order that says the federal government can’t determine standards, curricula or tests for Mississippi’s schools. But the order didn’t slow Mississippi’s adoption of Common Core. Since Dec. 13, the state Board of Education has approved spending about $8.4 million on exams Mississippi helped develop through a multistate group called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The board has also adopted new course plans and textbook lists.

Supporters note that a group of states developed the standards, and say Mississippi remains fully in control. They say that when Common Core is fully implemented, students will learn to think more analytically and learn less by memorization.

Yesterday morning, Bryant told reporters “states can do it better and that’s what we’ll be talking about throughout the summer and in the next legislative session” according to a video posted by The Clarion-Ledger.

He backed up those remarks later in the day in a statement to The Associated Press, saying he’s heard “many concerns from constituents” and “growing dissatisfaction among educators.”

“Common Core is a failed program and many are realizing that these standards are not what many believed them to be,” he said in the statement. “Mississippi has the responsibility and authority to manage its own education system and not delegate that control to Washington, D.C.”

In his statement yesterday, Bryant said PARCC tests “could” be replaced. Spokeswoman Nicole Webb did not respond to questions from The Associated Press late yesterday seeking clarification of whether Bryant wants out of PARCC or believes he’s already barred the tests’ use.

Bryant, a likely candidate for re-election in 2015, echoed opposition from Republican governors in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Indiana. State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, who’s challenging incumbent U.S. Sen Thad Cochran for the Republican senatorial nomination Tuesday, has helped lead tea-party influenced opposition in Mississippi.

The governor likely would encounter opposition to repeal from state Superintendent Carey Wright and the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s largest business lobby. Both are outspoken Common Core supporters.

Wright declined comment yesterday, saying she wanted to study Bryant’s remarks. Scott Waller, the executive vice president of MEC, reiterated that group’s support.

It’s also unclear if lawmakers would agree with Bryant. This year, the Senate rejected efforts to block Common Core and the House never considered action.

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