JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi should change its academic goals even if the public schools superintendent wants to stick with the Common Core standards that have been put in place over the past several years, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said Tuesday.
"What the superintendent needs to understand is that she's not in charge of public education in Mississippi. The public is," Bryant said. "And if the public in the state of Mississippi does not appreciate nor desire a Common Core curriculum, then we're going to do away with it. Or, we're going to at least try to amend it."
Bryant's comments came in response to reporters' questions after he spoke at a telecommunications event in Jackson.
Most states have adopted Common Core standards, which outline goals of what children should learn in English and math while leaving specific curriculum choices to state and local boards. Mississippi adopted Common Core in 2010 and has spent years implementing it. The state is scheduled to have its first standardized testing under Common Core in 2015.
Bryant has said for the past year that he believes Common Core could give the federal government too much say in education. That reflects statements by tea party groups and other conservatives who could be influential during Mississippi's 2015 Republican primaries for governor and other state offices. Bryant is seeking a second term.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves presides over the state Senate, which rejected a proposal by several conservatives earlier this year to take money away from Common Core. Reeves, who is seeking re-election, said during a speech at a news media luncheon Monday that he wants to ditch Common Core because he believes it has been "hijacked by the Obama administration." While Reeves said he supports state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, he proposed appointing a group other than the state Board of Education to write different academic standards for Mississippi.
Wright and state Board of Education chairman John Kelly said in a joint statement Monday that developing new standards would be expensive and could take years. After the governor's comments about Wright on Tuesday, a Department of Education spokeswoman referred to the joint statement.
"We understand that the term 'Common Core' has become a lightning rod in some political circles, and as a result, has become attached to an unprecedented level of misinformation," Wright and Kelly said.
They also said: "Mississippi remains in charge of its education policies and must remain committed to higher standards."
Mississippi amended the state Constitution in 1982 to create a state Board of Education that sets policies for schools, starting in July 1984. Board members are nominated by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, and must be confirmed by the state Senate. The state superintendent of education is chosen by the Board of Education and also must be confirmed by the Senate.
Bryant hasn't offered proposals for different academic standards but said Tuesday that he wants to ensure "we have the challenges that we need to meet the future."
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