Common Core opponents unable to block funding in Senate

Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, left, and Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, debate a House education appropriations bill in Senate chambers at the Capitol in Jackson on Wednesday. Funding arguments soon developed to debate over the Common Core state standards adopted by the Mississippi Department of Education that a number of senators  object to. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, left, and Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, debate a House education appropriations bill in Senate chambers at the Capitol in Jackson on Wednesday. Funding arguments soon developed to debate over the Common Core state standards adopted by the Mississippi Department of Education that a number of senators object to. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Money to provide training to teachers on enacting Common Core national academic standards in the state’s public schools remains intact in the Mississippi Legislature.

A group of Republican senators, including U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, was unsuccessful Wednesday in efforts to divert $694,000 from Common Core to a teacher pay raise.

The amendment offered by Angela Hill, R-Picayune, to divert the Common Core money to the $64 million teacher pay raise that passed the Senate earlier this session received 11 votes in favor compared to 39 opposed.

Hill, McDaniel and others argued Common Core was an effort of the federal government to take over the local school districts.

“It always has been about control,” McDaniel said. “The federal government is not designed to be in matters of local school districts.”

Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, said he agreed that the federal government should not be developing curriculum for local school districts, but argued that is not what Common Core does.

He said the intent of Common Core, which was developed by the nation’s governors, state’s education leaders and others was about setting national standards to make American students more globally competitive. The local school districts have the responsibility to develop the curriculum to meet those standards, Burton said.

“I am absolutely comfortable that this is a good move,” Burton said of the state enacting Common Core. “I am absolutely positive our kids are going to be taught better.”

The debate that lasted more than two hours got tense at times, especially when comparing Common Core opponents to seeing UFOs. Opponents accused Burton of not taking the education issue seriously.

Common Core academic standards were developed and adopted in 2009 by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the states’ top education officials. Former Gov. Haley Barbour was among those supporting Common Core.

Soon after the NGA endorsement, the Mississippi Board of Education voted to enact the new standards, which supporters say require more critical-thinking skills of students. More than 40 states, like Mississippi, have adopted the standards.

Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, was the only Northeast Mississippi senator to vote against Common Core standards.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com