By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The newly minted Senate Conservative Coalition has turned a disapproving eye toward the national Common Core education curriculum being enacted in Mississippi and most of the rest of the nation.
Similar conservative opposition in some other states has at least slowed the enactment of Common Core, developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and strongly supported by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
“The Coalition has continued working hard to find the facts behind Common Core so that we can make an informed decision on potential legislation,” Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, the group’s policy chairman, said in a news release. “The latest news of racial measures in other states and how that might lead to differences in student outcomes make it even more troubling than it already was, increasing the need for us to take a step back.”
Common Core is designed to develop cohesive national education standards that stress teacher flexibility and critical thinking skills. The state Board of Education has adopted it as the Mississippi academic curriculum.
A statement from the state Department of Education said the board’s goal “is for every child to be proficient in academic performance, regardless of race, disability or socioeconomic status.”
The statement said the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Program, not Common Core, does recognize achievement gaps exist while “expecting all children to meet proficiency.”
While Common Core has the support of many prominent Republicans, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, some conservatives have expressed opposition, saying the program tries to enact federal standards on the states. Common Core was developed by the governors, though the Obama administration has embraced many of its concepts.
On Monday, Mick Bullock, spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant, said Bryant “supports higher standards for our students and is closely monitoring these College and Career Readiness Standards in making sure they are in line with Mississippi’s educational values.”
And Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, said, he “believes we must continue to monitor the transition, and he frequently communicates with the state superintendent, principals and teachers on how this higher set of standards is being adopted in the classroom and has heard positive feedback. He believes raising expectations while ensuring teachers have the flexibility and tools they need to teach will lead to improved results.”