Vouchers, Graduation Requirements, and Common Core

Last week, Governor Bryant signed SB 2695, the voucher bill that allows taxpayer dollars to be used to pay tuition for children with special needs to attend private academies and for-profit schools. The voucher schools are not required to admit all students who apply and are not required to provide special education services to the students they admit.

On hand to celebrate the occasion was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. In recent years, Governor Bush’s non-profit, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), has paid lobbyists to push this and other privatization bills to Mississippi lawmakers.

Governor Bush’s group, funded by virtual school companies and other for-profit education vendors, lobbies for broad school choice and similar privatization measures across the United States. Just prior to the 2013 Legislative Session, I wrote an opinion editorial entitled, “Is Public Education for Sale?” highlighting the work of FEE and other groups that promote legislation enabling for-profits to cash in on taxpayer funds intended for public schools. You can read it it here.

The governor has not yet signed SB 2161, the bill that establishes a commission to make recommendations about Mississippi’s education standards. He is being asked by anti-Common Core folks to veto the bill because they do not believe it goes far enough to ensure that the Common Core State Standards are discarded in their entirety. If the governor does not sign or veto the bill by April 24, it will become law without his signature.

Changes to Graduation Requirements

The State Board of Education has made changes to graduation requirements that will be phased in over the next several years. Effective immediately, students still will be required to take the end-of-course state subject area tests, but passage of those tests will no longer be required for graduation. Instead, the student’s state test score, combined with the overall course grade, will be used to meet the requirement. Other options are available as well. Beginning in 2016-17, the student’s score on the end-of-course state test will constitute 25 percent of the student’s overall course grade in each of the four state-tested areas: Algebra I, Biology I, English II, and U.S. History. Read more here.

A Better Legislature

Many of you have emailed or called to ask how you can help elect a more education-friendly legislature in November. The good news is that there are many ways! Coming soon will be a chance for you to help us craft a candidate questionnaire to help you and other voters understand the education positions of those running for the Legislature and statewide office. Be thinking of the questions you would like to ask the candidates, and watch your inbox for instructions about submitting your ideas for the questionnaire. 

In the Meantime

We’ve been busy meeting with parent and educator groups across the state, explaining the outcomes of the 2015 Legislative Session and answering questions about how busy moms and dads can best use their time to influence the legislation that affects our children’s education. If you would like to have a representative of The Parents’ Campaign meet with a group in your community, reply to this email and let us know. We would love to share our ideas and hear yours!

As we enter the hectic end-of-school-year period, we at The Parents’ Campaign want to thank the educators, parents, and community volunteers who work so hard to ensure that all Mississippi children have a good shot at a bright future. What a blessing it is that we have a public education system that is responsible for educating every child, regardless of ability, wealth, or zip code. That would not be the case in the “privatized and profitized” world that some envision – a world of “schools’ choice” in which a profit-driven agenda determines which kids get chosen.

And what a blessing it is that you have joined with thousands of other Mississippians to fight back against the forces pushing that agenda and to support initiatives that foster strong public schools for all Mississippi children. I can’t think of a worthier cause!

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