Mississippi governor: Educational troubles began when ‘mom is in the workplace’ — VIDEO

Gov. Phil Bryant
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said Tuesday that America’s educational troubles began when women began working outside the home in large numbers.

Bryant was participating in a Washington Post Live event focused on the importance of ensuring that children read well by the end of third grade. In response to a question about how America became “so mediocre” in regard to educational outcomes, he said:

I think both parents started working. And the mom is in the work place.

Bryant immediately recognized how controversial his remark would be and said he knew  he would start to get e-mails. He then expanded on his answer, saying that “both parents are so pressured” in families today. He also noted that America seemed to be losing ground internationally in regards to educational outcomes because other nations began to invest more in their own school systems and make progress.

Bryant was speaking at on a panel that also included Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R). The event was co-sponsored by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the GLR Campaign and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas.

During a conversation about what states are doing to increase reading proficiency, the moderator of the panel, award-winning Washington Post journalist Mary Jordan, asked the three governors how America got “so mediocre” in regard to reading proficiency rates and  educational outcomes. Bryant answered first.

In his answer to the question, Markell said:

There is a lack of urgency on the part of the public … that we are in a new world.

Martinez said that lack of urgency was the adults’ fault. “Education became adult-driven and not child-driven,” she said, a common refrain of some school reformers who have attacked teachers and their unions for being more concerned about their own needs than the needs of the students.

Martinez said that 99.9 percent of the teachers in her state, New Mexico, are rated proficient, but added that “obviously that can’t be true,” because only 70 percent of students graduate from high school.

She did note that New Mexico’s high school graduation rate jumped from 63 percent to 70 percent in 2012. But she did not say that the 2012 graduating class did not have to take a high-stakes exit exam as previous classes had.

RELATED: Megyn Kelly schools commentators on working moms

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · June 4, 2013