Monday, January 26, 2015

Senate Conservative Coalition Opposes: Crowds

Happening now! The United Conservatives Fund, a political action committee led by state Senator, and person still running for the US Senate, Chris McDaniel, is having an event in Pearl, Mississippi. As you  can see from the picture below, parking was not a problem for the ones of attendees. 

Photo Source: Mississippi Public Broadcasting

North Mississippi: Brandon Presley Country

A poll out today shows us that Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has worked hard enough to earn the high praise of his constituents. By a margin of five to one, Northern District voters have a favorable view of Commissioner Presley. This makes him more popular than Governor Phil Bryant and Senator Thad Cochran. Not a bad haul. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Did Rep. Bobby Moak have an advance copy of Phil Bryant's 2015 State of the State? Of course not, but it sure seemed that way.

Gov. Phil Bryant gave his 2015 State of the State address Wednesday night, but on Tuesday, House Democratic Leader Rep. Bobby Moak (D - Bogue Chitto) issued a press release calling the shots on what Bryant would say:
"It will be more empty promises to fund education, some tripe about silver shovel awards in hard-to-find magazines, a little hot air about inflated job numbers and made-up business rankings," Moak said.
So Moak predicted 5 things Bryant would say on Tuesday, a full 24 hours before the State of the State.  For those keeping score at home, those five things were:

  1. Empty promises to fund education,
  2. Tripe about silver shovel awards
  3. Hard-to-find magazines
  4. Inflated job numbers
  5. Made-up business rankings

MSGOP Chairman Joe Nosef responded Tuesday afternoon by playing the outrage card, and issued the following response:
"While, unfortunately, it is typical to see empty rhetoric from the minority Democrat party whining and attacking our governor, it is quite humorous to see them criticize a speech that is 24 hours away from being made."
And then Phil Bryant gave his speech Wednesday.

This line came not 90 seconds in:
"According to Area Development magazine, Mississippi ranks in the top ten states in the nation for economic development."
Right out of the gate, Moak hit two with one line! Made-up business rankings AND a hard-to-find magazine in one sentence!

That line was then followed up closely by:
"For the third year in a row, we have been awarded a Silver Shovel...."
Boom! Moak's got three!

So here's where we are now, barely two minutes into the speech:
  1. Empty promises to fund education
  2. Tripe about silver shovel awards
  3. Hard-to-find magazines
  4. Inflated job numbers
  5. Made-up business rankings
Then Bryant moved on to jobs, and strained the limits of credulity with the following:
"According to our State Economist, Mississippi added 8,800 more jobs in 2014 than in 2013. Projected real personal income growth in Mississippi during 2015 is expected to be 3.9 percent. We also know that personal income buys even more in Mississippi than it would in other states because of our low cost of living. The Tax Foundation has found income in Mississippi goes 16 percent further than the national average. So for every $100 in income, a Mississippian would make $116 compared to other states. So many new employees who move to Mississippi get a raise. If they move here from Washington, D.C., they could get around a 40 percent raise. Obviously, we would need to retrain most of them."
First off, ain't nobody moving here right now, Governor. Our very meager population growth is attributable to births outpacing deaths, not folks chomping at the bit to move to Mississippi.  In fact, take a look at the maps over at New Geography.  The only folks moving into Mississippi in any number are running south from Memphis.

Second, it's cute how you claim 8,800 new jobs in Mississippi last year while ignoring that we've lost 41,000 since you came on the scene as Lt. Governor in 2007.  But I'm getting away from the point.  Moak now has his fourth prediction, inflated jobs numbers, come true.

Let's move on to empty promises to fund education, the first prediction Moak made and the last one still alive. Gov. Bryant, take it away:
Now let's spend a moment on the reality of education funding. The Education Week Research Center ranks Mississippi as 19th in the nation for state expenditures on K-12 education as a percentage of state taxable resources. No less authority than the U.S. Department of Education lists our state as number twelve in the nation for school expenditures as a percentage of the state's gross domestic product.
Sorry, I'm going to interrupt right here to point something out. If Person A takes home $2,400.00 a month, and spends $1,000 a month on housing, Person A spends 41.6% of his income on housing.  If Person B makes $7,000 a month, and spends $2,000 a month on housing, Person B spends 28.5% of her income on housing.  Does that mean Person B cares more about housing than Person A?  Of course not. So Gov. Bryant, quit trying to tell us that those stats mean anything. Even with my Mississippi public school education, I can see through that.

But back to Bryant's speech:
My Executive Budget Recommendation increases MAEP funding by $53 million over the current year. Under my recommendation MAEP funding will reach nearly $2.2 billion or a 2.5 percent annual increase. Funding for K-12 overall will reach $2.5 billion. It includes $41 million for the second year of a $100 million teacher pay raise and $15 million for more reading coaches to assist in the literacy program within the Third Grade Gate. I believe most of us want to fund reforms in education that work and make certain the money goes to the classroom.
You notice what Bryant didn't say? He didn't say that his recommendation is to adequately fund education. He just said he's going to recommend an increase, but not even to the level we've already decided is merely adequate (MAEP). So he made it sound like he's going to fund education fully, even when he admittedly isn't.  And if you look at the speech, he's wasn't even that enthused about it.  He was more excited about signing a tax cut (any tax cut!) and how he put "In God We Trust" on the state seal.

And there it is, Moak hit every single prediction:
  1. Empty promises to fund education
  2. Tripe about silver shovel awards
  3. Hard-to-find magazines
  4. Inflated job numbers
  5. Made-up business rankings
Wonder how Nosef feels about his quote now?  A bit silly, perhaps?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The 12 grades that prove why Mississippi's school system is a wreck

Last night, Gov. Phil Bryant made a big deal about Mississippi being ranked 9th in the nation in preschool enrollment, a stat he pulled from Education Week magazine's state report cards.

Of course, there's a lot that he didn't tell you about Education Week's evaluation of the Mississippi education system, and what he didn't tell you explains why our public schools are in such bad shape.

So let's take a look at some of Mississippi's grades from Education Week that Gov. Phil Bryant didn't share with you last night.

First, let's look at how we are doing funding-wise:

  • Spending: F (48.4) !!!!!!!!
  • Building & supporting capacity: F (56.7)
  • School Finance: D (66.1)

Now, you know where Education Week says we are doing a great job? Accountability!

  • Standards, Assessments, & Accountability: A (92.8)
  • Standards: A (100.0)
  • School accountability: A (100.0)

So when you have plenty of accountability, but no funding, what does that get you?
  • Chance for Success: D+ (68.9)
  • The Teaching Profession: D (66.5)
  • Adult outcomes: D+ (68.2)
  • College readiness: D- (60.0)
  • K-12 Achievement: F (56.6)
How much longer are we going to have to wait until we elect leaders who understand the very simple concept that schools require adequate funding in order to teach our children?

Remember, we choose these leaders, Mississippi.

The big thing Gov. Phil Bryant hid from you in last night's State of the State

Last night, Gov. Phil Bryant made a big deal about an Education Week ranking that had Mississippi ranked 9th in the nation in preschool enrollment.

That's a good thing. But what else does Education Week say about Mississippi's public education system under Gov. Phil Bryant?

In its most recent review of state education systems across the nation, Education Week gave Mississippi an overall C- grade. Well, that's just barely below average, right?


The only states to score lower than Mississippi were Idaho, Nevada, and South Dakota, and they only did so barely. That means that according to Education Week, we have the 4th worst education system in America. (You have to register to view that article, but it's free.)

To borrow a phrase: And now you know the rest of the story.....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Democratic Response to the 2015 State of the State

Here's the Democratic Response to the 2015 State of the State address:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Did Gunn Say?

During yesterday's debate over the Initiative 42 alternative, House Speaker Philip Gunn interrupted the remarks of House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak and Rep. Steve Holland when these two mentioned that they heard speculation that the Speaker may have applied stronger-than-normal pressure upon Republicans to pass their bill. There were nearly a dozen Republicans who were prepared to defeat the alternative language. Only two Republicans ended up voting against the bill. Upset that no one can keep a secret, Gunn wanted to know from Moak and Holland who has been talking to the press and other members.

Here are the questions that we should be asking instead: what did Philip Gunn say to his fellow Republicans? Which members did Gunn, Greg Snowden, and House staff have contact with about this bill, and what was said during the conversation? Did the Speaker, in any way, shape, or form have contact with an individual or others to discuss funding opposition to fellow Republicans who voted no?

The Speaker claims to be a man of high integrity so for him to maintain that standard, he should come forward and explain what was said - or not said - to his caucus members prior to the vote. Gunn said his job as Speaker is to maintain decorum; here is his chance. The best way to get the story right is to get it from the source.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Randy Boyd Draws 2015 Challenger

On the heels of an embarrassing vote to undermine the public's vote on the full funding of MAEP, District 19 Rep. Randy Boyd (R-Mantachie) has drawn a serious Democratic challenger, Clint Gannon from Mooreville.

Gannon is a popular sports talk show host, and a Mooreville native. We've heard reports that Gannon is an energetic voice and a hard campaigner (He ran a narrow Justice Court race in 2012).

Boyd is in for quite a fight.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Undermining the public's intent with public education

Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., the Mississippi House of Representatives will vote on an alternative initiative to the education funding ballot initiative that over 100,000 Mississippians signed on for last year.

This deliberate act led by Republican leaders to confuse and undermine the public’s intent is quite perplexing after Governor Bryant's strong declaration a few weeks ago that the public is in charge education in Mississippi.

Perhaps it is the large number of constituents who are employed or have children educated through public schools, or perhaps they took the Governor’s earlier mantra to heart, but about 13 Republican legislators have indicated they are opposed to the alternative language.

Speaker Philip Gunn, however, needs these 13 votes for Tuesday morning. According to sources, these 13 Republican legislators were taken into the Speaker’s office one-by-one and told they would lose their chairmanships and have $100,000 spent on their primary opponent against them this year. The backer of this $1.3 million? A candidate for office from Madison County with substantial financial resources.

This will be the first time in Mississippi history that the legislature has proposed an alternative to a ballot initiative by the people. If the people are in charge of education in our state, then the people should be voting on the initiative as they signed off on it. But instead, the Legislature is sending Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden around to tell folks that they’ve met their "promises," and intentionally misleading the public through an alternative to the initiative.

Educating our children is a promise that has not been met - it is a necessity to improving our state. It is a necessity to turn around our continuous abysmal performance on every list imaginable, from the highest rates of incarceration to the worst places for business.

It is absurd to think that Speaker Gunn, arguably the most powerful elected leader, is threatening his moderate Republicans in order to cater to Tea Party reactionaries who do not understand that everyone suffers when we do not invest in our greatest asset - Mississippians.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mississippi Imprisons Mostly Black Persons So Bryant Meets With Mostly White Task Force

Friday, Governor Phil Bryant met with a task force responsible for reviewing and possibly reforming the Mississippi Department of Corrections contracts process. This is in response to alleged corruption by the former MDOC commissioner, Chris Epps.

We know that Mississippi has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world - second highest in the United States. Most of those persons incarcerated in Mississippi's prisons are disproportionately persons of color. Looking around this table, I see only one person of color seated to participate in the decision-making process.

Approximately 61 percent of Mississippi's inmates are black, yet 61 percent of the persons sitting around this table are not. It is unsettling that more persons of color are not at this meeting to help implement new policies that are impacting communities of color.

photo borrowed from Jeffrey Hess of Mississippi Public Broadcasting