Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Well, Gov. Tate Reeves presented his budget proposals for the State of Mississippi's 2021-2022 fiscal year on Nov. 16. In Mississippi, governors' budget proposals are typically DOA, drawing only yawns from the legislative leadership.
But those proposals do indicate a governor's aspirations, and for that reason, Reeves' announcement is important for three remarkable proposals.
First, it proposes phasing out the state's income tax, which accounts for 32% of General Fund revenue; second, it does not propose a teacher pay increase; and third, it proposes $3 million to create a "patriotic education fund."
I'll comment on the first two at a later date and focus now on the governor's proposed $3 million to fund a "patriotic education fund," which is designed to "financially reward schools that combat "revisionist history" that is "poisoning a generation," in Reeves' words. In his press release, Reeves asserts that Mississippi school students have been assaulted by "indoctrination in the far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America's shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country."
"American values," the governor further alleged, "have been the victims of a targeted campaign from foreign and domestic influence—aiming to destroy the pillars of our society."
His proposal for a "patriotic education fund" is to combat this "dramatic shift in education."
Lest you think the governor thought up all this by himself, I refer you to President Trump's July 3, 2020, speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which is available on the White House website. About one-fourth the way through it, Mr. Trump asserted that "our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were (sic) villains."
Trump continued, "The radical view of American history is a web of lies—all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition."
Whew! And it went on like that about a half hour more.
Two comments. First, Gov. Reeves is merely parroting the president's belief that there is a vast, "far-left fascism" working behind the scenes in our schools to bring down America by corrupting its youth. That is how firmly wedded our governor is to Trumpism.
Second, drill down a little deeper. Public-school superintendents in Mississippi are appointed by the mayors of Mississippi cities. Somebody corralled all those superintendents and sold them on the idea to teach their students "to hate their own country"? Really?
How did the teachers get the word? From their superintendents? And how many of them could keep a secret once the superintendents put out the word? But wait, maybe "they" go around the superintendents and use the internet to penetrate the teacher corps. Maybe hundreds of teachers across the state go onto dark websites every night to get their instructions, late after their spouses and children are sound asleep. Really?
Just as our national elections are decentralized—down to the county and precinct level—so, too, is our K-12 school system decentralized. There are so many independent schools and school systems that it is impossible for an "invisible hand" to reach in and dictate what is taught. Let us rather celebrate the genius of our decentralized system and how it is one of the pillars of our society, government "of the people, by the people and for the people."
Your and my neighbors are the people who run our schools and teach our children. They are not secret agents of a "targeted campaign ... to destroy the pillars of our society." They are members of our communities, people we see at the grocery store, at church and at ball games. People we know.
The governor's shameful attempts to sow distrust and suspicion within our communities is not a patriotic act. Reeves' very announcement of his "patriotic education fund" contradicts itself, with its unfounded accusations of disloyalty among our state's teachers and superintendents.
It should be rejected out of hand.
Dick Conville is a retired college professor and long-time Hattiesburg resident.
CORRECTION: The above column originally stated that Mississippi school superintendents are elected, but they have not been elected since 2016. The author apologizes for the error. The above story reflects the correction.
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP.