The GOP last week won a supermajority in the state House the old-fashioned way, by convincing a freshly elected Democrat to switch parties.
Whew, I was worried Ripley, new Republican Jody Steverson's hometown, a scant 350 miles from the Coast, would miss out on its share of the BP money.
Of course, no one but Steverson can with any degree of confidence say why he switched but I'm not buying the idea he just discovered his "views line up closer with those of the Republican Party."
They probably do. They probably did the day he filed as a Democrat.
Never miss a local story.
Now he and his Republicans own the education issue. And all the others -- high unemployment, chronic poverty, faltering hospitals, crumbling infrastructure and the like.
But education will be the most watched because of all the shenanigans employed by Republicans against Initiative 42. And they ran the past election on the promise that if the Democrats would just get out of the way, they could fix things.
So far, it looks like the Republican plan is to dictate to the districts how they can spend state money. The AP is reporting one plan being floated would "push more money into classrooms and less into administrative expenses."
I thought the idea was that local people knew better how to spend their tax money. I thought the problem was the districts didn't have enough money for everything, not just the classrooms.
Nope. House Speaker Philip Gunn says the problem is the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula. You know, the formula routinely ignored by lawmakers when they decide how much to spend on education. You know, the formula so often ignored the people petitioned to try to change the state Constitution to force lawmakers to make schools better.
"It's a constant source of conflict and dispute," Gunn told the AP. "We need to find a way where the school systems can get what they need and in some way that doesn't result in an argument every year."
Like sending more taxpayer money to private schools, perhaps. That's what Grant Callen of Empower Mississippi -- who likely has Republican leaders' attention after picking off some Republicans who didn't toe the privatization line -- would do.
Last session the bogeyman was Common Core, not school superintendents. Now, just days after the election we learn that students under the Common Core standards seem to be scrambling off the bottom.
"The state as a whole bucked its trend of languishing at the bottom of just about every indicator of educational quality and outpaced almost every other state that has released data for the same English test," Regina Zilbermints reported in the Sun Herald on Friday. "Mississippi also held its own against other states in Algebra I."
Unfortunately, Mississippi is abandoning the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career tests that produced those results. Common Core is barely hanging on.
I wish the Republicans the best as they try to wrangle all these opposing forces into a coherent education strategy and I'll offer them one piece of advice:
This year, listen to the people who deal with education every day, the parents, teachers and yes, administrators and don't pay so much attention to those who substitute loud voices for insight.
Because they won't have the Democrats to blame.
Contact Paul Hampton, politics editor for the Sun Herald, at 896-2330 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jpaulhampton.