STARKVILLE – Throughout a recent screening of the exceptional documentary film The Hardest Task: William Winters Mississippi, a rather provocative concern was asked by John F. Marszalek, the distinguished teacher emeritus of history and the existing executive director of the US Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University.Marszalek asked, Is it possible that such a thing could happen today in the states present political climate?What was the important things? Broadly, it was the passage
of the landmark 1982 Education Reform Act by Winter season and his young, optimistic group of staffers who became known as the Children of Spring.MSUs Mitchell Memorial Library screened the Southern Documentary
Projects documentary film chronicling the life and profession of Winter season, the states 57th guv, and his battle to pass the 1982 Education Reform Costs. Making use of archival materials and interviews with Gov. Winter season, Elise Winter season, Thad Cochran, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Cock Molpus, Ray Mabus, Charles Overby, President Bill Clinton and others, the movie analyzes Winters life and profession and the interesting politics behind the passage of the reform package.Joining Winter in Starkville for the screening were previous gubernatorial staffers David Crews and Andy Mullins, both of Oxford, two of
the vaunted Kids of Spring who assisted direct the passage of the act through the Mississippi Legislature. Marszalek and Mississippi Public Broadcasting executive director Ronnie Agnew, the former editor of The Clarion-Ledger, completed a panel that held a public discussion of the documentary that led to Marszaleks question.It was a powerful and revealing question.Heres one old reporters response: Winters famous success in leading the 1982 education reforms to passage in a Mississippi Legislature than had no genuine intention of passing the reforms was a complicated political dance defined by the times and technology.One vital element of the approaches that Winter season and his assistants utilized was a strong collaboration with the states press. Media protection, specifically from The Clarion-Ledger and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, put severe pressure on the Legislature. The Clarion-Ledger won a Pulitzer Prize
for Public Service for its protection and editorial commentary on the education reform package.But another vital elementconsider Winters success was that the battle over education reform in 1982 never took on partisan overtones. It was a battle between the old guard in the then-dominant Democratic Party in the state and the younger, more progressive members of the exact same party.What it wasnt was a partisan battle in between
Republicans and Democrats. In 1982, Republicans were still on the outside looking in when it concerned state government. GOP gains in Mississippis federal elections in the 1970s notwithstanding, Mississippi Democrats still controlled from the states city halls
and county court houses all the method to the statehouse.So, could public pressure be utilized, concentrated and empowered to once more influence substantial public law change in Mississippi under the dominant Republican politician Party leadership the state has 33 years after the 1982 reforms were passed? Certainly.Consider the sea modification on the issue of Common Core. Over the duration of two years, weve seen the state move from company groups touting the public education effort to seeing Tea CelebrationTea ceremony groups and others rally versus it.Public pressure, media pressure and the new influence of social media sites pressure certainly can and still does move public law as it did in 1982. However when education reforms end up being too tightly intertwined with partisan infighting, party discipline starts at the Mississippi Capitol nowadays in the exact same manner that it long has on Capitol Hill.The battle over Initiative 42 illustrates that reality. Such an initiative looking for to usurp legislative authority over K-12 education never came forward when Democrats had the type of control over state spending that Republicans now enjoy.Democrats, Republicans and independents alike want a sensible school system in Mississippi that produces competitive students with the abilities required to be competitive in the labor force. That was realheld true in 1982, its true today.Likewise, its real that partisan divides over the methods to achieve structure that system leads to entrenched opposition to the reforms needed to move the state forward. Democrat Winter didnt blame Republicans for public educations shortcomings in 1982– he blamed everyone. The path to meaningful future education reforms would benefit from that same strategy.Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.