By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday vetoed a bill that some lawmakers said would move Mississippi away from the Common Core academic standards adopted by this state and many others.
“I remain firmly committed to ending Common Core in Mississippi,” Bryant said in a news release. “This bill does not accomplish that goal, and I cannot in good conscience sign it into law.”
Common Core standards are designed to teach students to think more analytically. However, the standards have hit strong opposition from tea party groups and other conservatives who think Common Core could lead to federal intrusion in state education decisions.
Senate Bill 2161 passed in the final days of the legislative session in late March. It would have created a 15-member commission that could recommend small or large changes in standards of what students should learn in public schools _ anything from a requirement that schools teach cursive handwriting to an overhaul of what students are expected to learn in math, history or English. The recommendations would go to the state Board of Education by December, but the board would be under no obligation to accept any of them.
The state board adopted Common Core for Mississippi in 2010, and state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright and board members have stood by the standards, which they have labeled Mississippi College- and Career-Ready Standards.
“Mississippi’s College- and Career-Ready Standards are by far the highest academic standards we have ever had in the state or the nation,” Wright and Board of Education Chairman John Kelly said in a joint statement in December.
An early version of Senate Bill 2161 would have required the state board to accept at least 75 percent of the commission’s recommended changes. That provision was removed from the final version.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who pushed for Senate Bill 2161, issued a statement sharply criticizing the governor’s action.
“Gov. Bryant’s veto of a bill that 93 legislative Republicans supported ensures that Common Core will remain in Mississippi schools,” Reeves said. “To put this in simple terms, those that support Common Core are celebrating tonight.”
Bryant, Reeves and most lawmakers are seeking re-election this year. Many Republicans are campaigning by saying they want to ditch Common Core.
“Over the past several years, Mississippians’ concern about Common Core has increased steadily,” Bryant said in his statement Thursday. “Parents have strongly expressed their dissatisfaction with a system many feel replaces their right to a voice in the education of their children with a centralized, top-down approach that cedes an uncomfortable amount of influence to a federal agenda.”
Bryant said last week that he likes a portion of Senate Bill 2161 that would have prohibited schools from collecting personal information about students or their families, including their religious or political affiliations and voting histories. Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle said schools and the state do not collect that information.