Governor Tate Reeves released his Executive Budget Recommendation this week. In it, he highlights the elimination of the income tax, funding the police, protecting small business and several other priorities of his office for the FY 2022 budget. One stand out component was the creation of a Patriotic Education Fund.
According to Reeves, the fund would not only teach children of the mistakes America has made but also of its achievements. In the reasoning for this fund, the Governor said that “young children have suffered from the indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.”
Reeves said that this “revisionist history” will tear down our American institution and poison a generation of young people.
“Capitalism, democracy and other uniquely American values have been the victims of a targeted campaign from foreign and domestic influence – aiming to destroy the pillars of our society,” Reeves said in the proposal.
The fund would require a $3 million investment from the capitol expense funds. The curriculum would be available to schools and non-profits to use in the classroom.
As the Legislature gets ready to head back to the Capitol for the 2021 Legislative session, we asked lawmakers what their take on this fund was, as it is the Legislature who sets the final budget.
House Education Chairman Rep. Richard Bennett (R) said that while he understands where the Governor is coming from and somewhat agrees, it has been the practice of the Legislature to allow local schools to decide these types of curriculum issues.
“For example, when there was a national push to include Common Core in all school districts, the Legislature authorized the State Board of Education and local school districts to determine the best approach for each individual school district. Also, many of the topics mentioned by the Governor are currently included in the state’s curriculum for Social Studies and U.S. History,” said Bennett.
Senator Brice Wiggins (R) sits on the Senate Education Committee had a similar sentiment. He said that he agreed that a return to “good, old-fashioned civics classes” would be a positive move, but that the decision for a budget item is still left up to the Legislature and they will surely give the Governor’s proposal consideration.
“Having pride in our country and our founding values should be the norm. My children attend public schools and my district’s school board members tend to be Republican-in-nature so I don’t think socialism, per se, is an issue in my area,” said Wiggins. “Educationally, we have a lot of needs with a limited amount of funds and maximizing our return on investment should be a premium. For example, increasing the funding for the Early Learning Collaborative would keep Mississippi in the Top 5 nationally and allow our children to compete globally.”
Senator Chad McMahan (R), who is also on the Senate Education Committee, showed support for the special fund.
“I support a special fund to create a patriotic history fund and curriculum in our public school systems that teachers can promote the greatness of America. We are a charitable people, we are a government of the people, by the people. Our military does not conquer but liberates. The American soldier freed Europe from tyrannical ideologies not once, but twice in the twentieth century,” said McMahan.
Senator Angela Hill (R) also showed unwavering support of a patriotic education program, as she has tried to pass her own legislation on the matter in the past.
“One must understand the basic fundamentals of what it truly means to be an American citizen in order to be patriotic. Students shouldn’t be just taught about our shortcomings, but our triumphs and accomplishments as well,” said Hill. She added there are school districts in the state who have shown students inappropriate videos that are based on political propaganda that could make students ashamed of their country.
While some say they will consider the proposal, others do not agree.
Representative Robert Johnson (D), the House Minority Leader, who had three children go through the public school system in Mississippi quoted Marshall Ramsey, from a recent tweet:
“I have three children who have attended Mississippi public schools and none of their teachers have “indoctrinated them with far-left teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings.” This is $3 million of political bullshit,” said Ramsey on Twitter.
He also added that the proposal for the fund is “ridiculous.”
Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus Senator Angela Turner-Ford (D) said she would prefer to focus the Legislature’s efforts on staying healthy and supporting educators and students during the current pandemic.
“When I first heard the comment I was not exactly sure what is considered to be a ‘patriotic education.’ The reference to ‘far-left indoctrination’ provided some context,” said Turner-Ford. “Given the issues school districts and families continue to face navigating COVID, virtual learning and internet connectivity, I prefer we focus our efforts on staying healthy and supporting our educators and students through the health crisis.”
Senator Derrick Simmons (D), Senate Minority Leader, said not telling our children the truth about the history of Mississippi and the country would be a disservice to students.
“We should never be afraid of the truth and we should never be fearful of passing truth along to our children,” said Simmons. “I would encourage the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature not to govern out of fear but to acknowledge that we are better when we deal with our history honestly, warts and all.”
Senator David Blount (D) took to Facebook to express his opposition to the program. He compared the Governor’s proposal for the Patriotic Education Fund to the movement of McCarthyism in America in the 1950’s. Joseph McCarthy was an U.S. Senator from Wisconsin that made claims that communists had infiltrated American life. He was later discredited but not after some states established their own “un-American activities committee.” Mississippi was one of those states.
“The proposal to create a Patriotic Education Fund must be considered and funded (or not) when the Legislature convenes in January. I trust our local teachers and see no need to spend $3 million in taxpayer’s money for a state-driven ideological curriculum czar. Our schools are one of the greatest manifestations of our American democracy and deserve our trust and support,” said Blount.
Governor Reeves says the priority for these funds is for students to get access to an education that promotes American ideals.
“With the Patriotic Education Fund, we are hopeful that teachers, administrators, and non-profits across the state will be creative with requests for these funds with classes, clubs, field trips, and new lesson plans. The top priority is for the youth in Mississippi to get access to the education that promotes our American ideals,” said Reeves.