Delivering the keynote address during the inauguration of Mississippi University for Women President James Borsig, Bryant spoke at length about his Education Works package that was passed by both chambers of the state legislature.
The House and Senate must still compromise differences between their two bills before it can become law.
“It is bold, it is dramatic, it will upset the status quo,” Bryant said of his education agenda.
Under it, third-grade students who fail a state reading test would not advance to fourth grade. Also, prospective teachers would be required to have a 3.0 grade-point average and to score a 21 on the ACT.
“I believe we have some of the best and brightest students in America,” Bryant said. “I won’t accept the fact our kids can’t read in third grade or our kids who want to be teachers can’t make a 21 on the ACT.”
Bryant referenced Mississippi’s education reform movement 30 years ago and former Gov. William Winter’s famous quote then about the need to rock boats.
“It is boat rocking time again,” Bryant said.
Asked afterward, Bryant said he believes the current reform is similar to that of 1982.
“I believe this will have the same impact,” he said. “It brings to the forefront the discussion of transformative change for the better.”
During his address, the governor also spoke about early-childhood education, college scholarships for teacher candidates and merit pay for teachers. Each of those were included in the bills that have passed the House and Senate.
Two of Bryant’s proposals were not – allowing public school students to cross district lines and providing scholarships for some students to attend private schools.
“Those were more challenging,” he said after his remarks. “You can only push so far one year at a time. We will do more research and allow for more comfort level.
“Out of seven items, we were able to get five achieved. It should go to conference with minimal differences.”