Mississippi Has Lost a Champion of Public Education

We at The Parents’ Campaign join with all Mississippians in mourning the passing and celebrating the legacy of former House Speaker Billy McCoy, a true man of the people and a great champion of public education. Speaker McCoy believed fervently that legislators should work on behalf of the people back home in their districts. He consistently rejected lobbyists’ overtures, and he regularly reminded visitors to the House gallery that the state Capitol belonged to them – to us – the citizens of our great state.

Speaker McCoy, a former teacher, served as chairman of the House Education Committee before being named chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and elected Speaker of the House. Public education remained a top priority for him throughout his tenure in the Legislature. He was instrumental in passing the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and presided over House votes to fully fund the MAEP in three consecutive years: 2007, 2008, and 2009. (The Great Recession decimated state revenue in 2008 and 2009, so the full amount of funding never made it to the district level in those years.)

Open government was another priority for Billy McCoy, and in his last years as Speaker, when behind-the-scenes maneuvering threatened education funding, he proclaimed that the House would not participate in conference committee meetings that were not open to the public. He was a man of tremendous integrity who worked across the aisle and believed in conducting the people’s business in plain sight – a true public servant.

Speaker McCoy is credited with some of Mississippi’s most significant economic development successes, including the 1987 infrastructure plan that created Mississippi’s four-lane highway system and paved the way for the recruitment of the Nissan and Toyota plants, employing thousands of Mississippians.

Mississippi is a better place because of the visionary leadership of Speaker Billy McCoy. The board and staff of The Parents’ Campaign extend our deepest condolences to his family and our heartfelt gratitude for his life of honorable service.

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