JACKSON — Mississippi could create a 27-member commission to recommend new academic standards for its schools, under a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday.
But after more than an hour of debate, senators rejected an effort to change the bill to make the state unequivocally dump Common Core State Standards.
The effort to reject Common Core came from Republican Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune and others allied with tea party groups. Hill said Common Core creates mediocre expectations and hurts academic achievement.
Hill said her amendment would block the state Board of Education from sticking with Common Core in part or in whole, even if the 27-member commission were to recommend doing so.
“That would prevent us from having the same thing with a different name,” Hill said.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said if a new commission recommends standards that include some Common Core elements, the state Board of Education should be able to adopt those standards.
“Let’s let educators work on this instead of politicians,” Tollison said.
Mississippi has spent millions of dollars implementing Common Core, which seeks to teach students to think more analytically. Many conservatives, including Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, say they fear Common Core could lead to too much federal intervention in Mississippi schools.
The state has long been at or near the bottom of national education rankings.
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright wants the state to stick with Common Core, which the state Department of Education calls the Mississippi College- and Career-Ready Standards.
“It’s not something you just flippantly eliminate,” Tollison said Wednesday.
Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, a retired teacher, said Mississippi needs to stick with Common Core and give it a chance to work. He said students need to be challenged more than they have been.
“Encourage students to burn the midnight oil to live up to the standards,” Jordan said.
Hill’s amendment failed with 37 senators voting against it and 13 for it.
After the amendment failed, the bill to create the commission passed with 31 senators voting yes, 16 voting no and three voting present, which counts neither for nor against the tally. Those voting present were Republicans Sens. Chris McDaniel, Melanie Sojourner and Michael Watson, all of whom had argued to ditch Common Core.
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