Plunkett: Reeves Common Core Shell Game Backfires

By Keith Plunkett |

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves election year political attempts to claim part of “his” agenda in the Mississippi Senate was successful, to end Common Core, continues to be dismissed by those on both sides of the issue.

Immediately following passage of SB 2161, the bill Reeves claimed ended Common Core, state Supt. Carey Wright was quoted as saying the bill did nothing to stop the federally mandated curriculum, and last week the MS Dept of Education began the process of reapplying for the ESEA waiver for the next three years. The ESEA waiver is handed out by the federal government with the stipulation that MDE must institute Common Core.

On Friday the New Albany Gazette Editorial board described how the Senate “wisely backed away” from creating new standards:

The Mississippi Senate has wisely backed away from insisting that the state Board of Education adopt educational standards to be developed by a 27-member board created by the Legislature.

On a 17-13 vote the Senate defeated a Tea-Party supported proposal that would have prevented the state board from continuing with the Common Core academic standards, called the Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards.

Common Core opposition on social media have also disputed the claims the bill ends Common Core. These opponents showed massive support for the defeated amendment.

Reeves attempted to sell it as a political victory anyway.

“With this bill, we can end Common Core, we can end our connection to PARCC, and we can draft our own strong standards for the classroom,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said in a Feb 12 statement. “I am proud the Senate passed the only bill that can lead to the end of Common Core, and I appreciate the 28 Republicans and three Democrats that joined us to make that happen.”

Regardless of where one falls on the issue of Common Core, the level of disrespect Reeves has shown the Mississippi voters is breathtaking.

Reeves was for Common Core, even holding a rally in support of it in 2013, until he realized the political winds were blowing in a different direction. He thought browbeating the support of some of the members of the Conservative Coalition would gain him some political points with the anti-Common Core crowd, announcing some of the Senators had signed a letter “endorsing” him.

But the parents and educators who fight Common Core are not so easily toyed with. Sen. Angela Hill has toured the state publicly condemning Common Core for over a year, yet her willingness to endorse Reeves has done nothing to turn the tide against the bill he claims defeated Common Core. In fact, it is Hill who is now fighting to explain her support of Reeves and this shell game.

Common Core is easily the hottest issue in conservative politics in Mississippi in the past year. That Reeves would attempt to gain politically from it is really no surprise. That there are those who thought they could raise their own political capital by playing the game comes as little surprise either.

However, the fact that any of them thought they could use it to their advantage without actually doing what they said they would do shows a level of ego and ambition that made them blind to reality.

Now, what Reeves obviously had hoped would quiet calls for a challenger, have only made the chorus louder.

Political games don’t work as well when people refuse to be played as fools, and the opponents of Common Core know this issue inside-out.

Reeves and the others caught up in this are playing an old game. But the rules changed a long time ago. Political personalities aren’t so important when people are tuned in to issues. As I have written about Reeves, the same holds true for others. The people welcome a statement of support. But actions must align.

It’s a new order in conservative politics in Mississippi. Principles matter. The sooner politicians recognize that the better.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett



  1. Hey Keith: Assuming Common Core does get phased out, can you list any specifics that you contend should take its place, particularly in the areas of Math and English so that MS high school graduates will be as well prepared as graduates from other states. Thanks

    • David, My apologies for the late response. I wasn’t aware this commentary had run on this website until this morning.

      There are numerous examples of good standards across the countries in other states. Some legislators and education advocates are currently looking at Massachusetts and California math standards and Massachusetts and Texas language standards in search of good replacements.

      The bottom line is that parents and teachers should be in control of education whatever standards are adopted, not bureaucrats in an office in Jackson or in Washington DC.

      Good examples of standards that work are available for Mississippians to use and Mississippians to implement, but we have to remain vigilant in looking for the best and implementing the best. In my estimation it should be a constant process. That’s also a reason we have to try to find ways to break the bureaucratic grip MDE has on education in this state by allowing more choice in educational options.

      The third grade reading standards are a good example. The standards were passed last year and already government school administrators are trying to have legislation passed that undoes them.

      • Hey Keith: What you advocate sounds great in theory. However, (as a parent myself whose child spent her entire educational life in the public schools) we must face the fact that the parents of MS have failed miserably over the years. The proof is in the drop out and illiteracy rates. Since the traditional methods have failed us, perhaps it is time for our political leaders to have the courage to look the people in the eye and tell them so, and pursue alternative methods that will mandate certain minimum teacher proficiency in their chosen subject matter, and require a “Common Core-like” curriculum that requires MS students to be learning the same information at the same time in math, science, and English/literature so that those who do graduate will be just as competitive as students from other states upon graduation.

  2. frank gordon says:

    The greatest evil of Common Core is that it tries to make kids compete against each other. There is simply no way for the average kid from Mississippi to be able to compete fairly against the kids from the more technically and managerial inclined states. The inevitable result will be to label the Mississippi kids as last place losers for the rest of their lives.

    If this educational train is allowed to accelerate across the Nation without concern for the slower natural pace of some states, all Mississippi children will be left behind.

    • But our kids already have the label of education losers based upon their high dropout and illiteracy rates. Clearly, doing it the MS way in the past has resulted in a gross failure in the state’s responsibility to provide adequate public education for our children. Therefore, what is wrong with a child from MS being expected and prepare in public school to perform as well in class and upon graduation being expected to read, write, and cipher as children from AL, KY, MA, or any other state if we want to be able to hold our workers out as being just as capable in the technology driven economy and work place that has become standard everywhere in America?

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