By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Consideration of the nomination of Carey Wright as state superintendent of education could present the Senate Conservative Coalition an opportunity to debate the Common Core academic standards on the Senate floor.
The 10-member coalition has made blocking Common Core in Mississippi one of its priorities during the 2014 legislative session. But it’s unlikely that legislation supported by the group to slow or halt the enactment of Common Core will make it out of committee.
The confirmation of Wright, a Common Core proponent, at some point this session will be debated before the full Senate.
“I know she is a staunch Common Core supporter,” said Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, a key coalition member. “…Maybe (the Wright confirmation vote) is an opportunity to draw a line in the sand.
“We will see.”
Thursday morning the Senate Education Committee approved Wright’s nomination. On a voice vote in the 15-member committee, Angela Hill, R-Picayune, another member of the Conservative Coalition, was the only no vote. She said she voted no because of Wright’s support of Common Core and of universal pre-K.
When asked if she would work to defeat Wright on the Senate floor, she said, “You never can tell.”
It is not likely Wright’s nomination would be in jeopardy even if the Conservative Coalition tried to mount an offensive, based on the strong support she received in the Education Committee.
“I think she will be a good addition to lead the state Department of Education,” said Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford. “She has a wealth of experience from one of the best districts in the country. Also she has experience in dealing with a high poverty district.”
Wright was an administrator in both the affluent and high-performing Montgomery County School District in Maryland and in the Washington, D.C., district, which serves a high percentage of impoverished children.
Tollison said test scores have improved in D.C., plus he believes an effective teacher evaluation system was put in place while Wright was an administrator in the district.
Watson said regardless of whether the Conservative Coalition makes the Wright nomination a debate on Common Core, there will be other opportunities.
Common Core is a set of academic standards initiated by the nation’s governors and state public school leaders and adopted by 45 states. Some conservatives oppose the standards on a number of fronts, including their contention that it represents a nationalization of the state’s public school system.
Wright was hired by the state Board of Education in September.