School systems will deconstruct

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 17, 2016

By TJ Ray

Mississippi Association of School Superintendents was recently defunded from public dollars because its members supported Initiative 42.

Trying to organize this essay has been difficult. Early in I realized that I could not simply level a stream of epithets at my target. And, too, I found it difficult to challenge the foe with logic because their continued acts of bullying demonstrate graphically that they have no sense of reason. At one point the thought popped into my head that perhaps a simple, direct call for fair play would be the best approach. But sadly the state is too far past that standard.

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Last year a group of everyday citizens worked together to get an initiative on the ballot: Initiative 42. The effect of that initiative would have been the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education bill. After some pushing and shoving, a ruling deemed the initiative valid and onto the ballot it went.

But the big boys weren’t so easily put down. No, no. They came up with their version of Initiative 42 — Initiative 42A, the effect of which was to ensure that no serious alteration of their business as usual program would occur.

After enough disingenuous disinformation was fed to the state’s voting folks, Prop 42A carried the day: the legislators who had not been content to listen to the voice of the people won the battle.

But in dirty politics, victory is never complete and sweet until payback has been delivered. One of the groups who supported Initiative 42 was the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents, people trusted to manage the most important activity in our poor state — education. Their reward was just announced: defunding of that group.

At this juncture, many folks may be nodding and thinking it’s about time school superintendents get their come-upance. After all teachers get the short end of the straw when salaries are meted out. And yes, the consolidation of some districts might well improve education in those places. But don’t let all peripheral gripes blur the impact of the legislative revenge on superintendents.

Just be ready for further deconstruction of our public school system. And watch for the announcement that ALEC schools are going up in your neighborhood. The American Legislative Exchange Council should have clear sailing. The speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives is on its board of directors. Surely the conflict of interest is an illusion? Or is it?

Here is my concern. The individual legislator who takes responsibility of the last-minute language that disallows state funds for the use of attending the MASS conference openly brags about how he did this to the superintendents for their support of I-42. He said it was payback.

Now I read that the same legislator has resigned his post and Gov. Phil Bryant is appointing him head of one of our budget or tax agencies. With that said, and his own admission that he thinks it only fair to use his power to retaliate when disagreed with, then which group of our citizens is next?

He is moving into an agency that controls tax collection or budgeting. Seems he should be disqualified for the position due to his childish behavior and then with the gall openly bragging about his deceitful — under the cloak of darkness work — while serving in the legislature.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at