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Mr. Billingsley's expanded statement on Common Core is posted below.
I believe that Common Core standards were developed with a good idea in mind. The US had been losing ground to other countries on educational achievement tests, and colleges and workplaces alike were demanding more from high school graduates than in the past. Further, there was no set of standards that could be used to consistently measure educational performance from state to state, and children moving to a new school sometimes found themselves well ahead or hopelessly behind their new classmates. The Common Core standards were intended to standardize the education of our children from state to state and provide better feedback on the performance of both students and teachers.
The new standards have been adopted by most states, and have worked well in some places. Unfortunately, there are many more places where the struggles with Common Core are significant. The people at the Department of Education are finding out that while the standards may be the same throughout the country, the people are not. Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa said, "The decision about what students should be taught and when it should be taught has enormous consequences for our children. Therefore, parents ought to have a straight line of accountability to those who are making such decisions. State legislatures, which are directly accountable to the citizens of their states, are the appropriate place for those decisions to be made, free from any pressure from the U.S. Department of Education.” I believe Senator Grassley is correct.
The Common Core standards were developed without input from anyone in Mississippi who is attempting to implement them. I am a believer in a decentralized approach to government, where the local authority makes as many decisions as possible. Who is better to set standards for students than their teachers? Who is better than the principal to measure the performance of the teachers? Clearly, Common Core is an attempt to impose federal standards without local input, and while money from the Race to the Top grants was initially offered as incentive for the states to participate, federal money is now being held over the states’ heads to force their compliance with the program guidelines.
I’m also concerned that my opponent is leading people to believe that he has worked hard to stop Common Core. In fact, his voting record shows just the opposite. He has consistently voted against repealing Common Core, instead opting to support the bill that emerged from the Senate – in an election year, of course – that simply changed the name of the program and created a task force to come up with new standards that the Department of Education didn’t even have to implement. After careful consideration, the Governor vetoed that bill because it didn’t guarantee that the existing Common Core standards wouldn’t continue to be used in Mississippi, so we get to start over in 2016.
I am very much in favor of higher standards for Mississippi students, and we have the talent and ability right here in Mississippi to write those standards. My position is clear. I was against Common Core in 2012, in 2013, in 2014 and in 2015. I’m still against it and I’ll work for its repeal in 2016 and beyond, because that’s the only way we are guaranteed to have standards that are developed by Mississippians for Mississippi students. Anything short of a full repeal will simply kick the issue down the road a year at a time until we’re in another election year. I want to solve the problem before more of our children slip through the cracks that Common Core has caused. If I’m elected to the State Senate on August 4 I promise to work hard to enable Mississippi experts to develop high academic standards for our students, standards that will help our high school graduates to successfully compete in college and in the workplace, and not just at home in Mississippi but anywhere in the world.