HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Legislators from the Pine Belt participated in a forum through the Area Development Partnership Monday morning to share their thoughts on issues that will be raised in the 2015 session.
Senators Billy Hudson (R- Dist. 45) and John Polk (R- Dist. 44) and Representatives Toby Barker (R- Dist. 102) and Larry Byrd (R- Dist 104) made up the forum at the University of Mississippi's Trent Lott Institute. The lawmakers were able to briefly share any bills they would author this session, but the majority of the forum focused on two of the arguably biggest issues this session: Common Core and funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
"[Common Core] is nothing but a group of standards and goals," said Polk, seeming to attempt to "calm the waters" amid potentially fearful attendants. "Somehow that's gotten misconstrued."
Polk, like the other legislators in attendance, said he was for higher standards, but it is too early to tell if Common Core is the answer.
"The Common Core debate does not need to be about who yells the loudest," said Barker, who has said on multiple occasions that until testing is done this spring with students, there is no data from Mississippi schools to support distancing from the standards, a move he called "an election year gimmick."
Byrd said he believed the districts needed to move away from the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment, although he was aware that local districts support Common Core. Hudson, however, was the only legislator in attendance to say he would vote against the standards if a vote was held today.
On funding education, each lawmaker made it known Monday that they were weary of Initiative 42, which has been placed on the 2015 ballot as a constitutional amendment that would require the state legislature to fund "an adequate and efficient" public school system based on the MAEP formula. If lawmakers failed to do so and this amendment passed, the legislature, which would be the State of Mississippi, would be sued.
Rep. Greg Snowden (R- Dist. 83) of Meridian introduced a legislative alternative to I-42 to the House Monday afternoon.
The bill, which can be accessed here, is also in the form of a constitutional amendment, but it reads: "The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools." As opposed to I-42's "adequate and efficient" verbiage, the legislative alternative calls it "effective."
Rep. Byrd said Monday morning that he felt MAEP should be "scrapped," and a fair formula needs to be created. That is a likely situation this session, and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said last week that he thinks the formula should be reviewed.
As for bills that these area legislators will submit, search this site.
The next ADP Legislative Forum will be held in March.