JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s governor said during a forum Tuesday that the quality of education in the U.S. began declining when mothers started working outside the home, though he added later that he was not trying to blame working women for education problems.
Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, made his initial remarks Tuesday in Washington during an education forum hosted by The Washington Post. He elaborated on them later in an interview with The Associated Press.
The newspaper reported (http://wapo.st/134DYMc) that Bryant and two other governors on the bipartisan panel were asked how America became “so mediocre” in education results.
Bryant responded: “I think both parents started working. The mom got in the work place.”
In a phone interview with the AP later Tuesday, Bryant said having both parents working outside the home puts pressure on families, which in turn affects education.
“We’re so busy in today’s society,” Bryant said. “Moms are working. Dads are working.”
Bryant’s wife, Deborah, has worked outside the home for more than 38 years, including while their two children were growing up.
“Anybody that thinks I would blame working mothers for failures in education is just ridiculous,” the governor said.
Bryant’s father was a diesel mechanic. When Bryant and his two brothers were growing up, their mother occasionally worked as a grocery store cashier and in a bakery to earn money when the family needed it, the governor told the AP.
The Washington Post forum focused on ensuring children can read well by the time they finish third grade — a focus of Bryant’s during the 2013 legislative session.
Democratic state Sen. Deborah Dawkins of Pass Christian, who worked as a physician’s assistant while raising three children, criticized Bryant’s remarks. Dawkins, a frequent critic of Bryant, said the governor seems to have little idea about the problems parents face in finding quality, affordable day care, particularly in one of the poorest states in the nation.
“He is so out of touch with the real world,” Dawkins said. “He surrounds himself with tea party people who want to home school their children.”
Janis Lane, president of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, is a Bryant supporter who worked 37 years for a telecommunications company, including when she and her husband were raising two sons. She said she believes Bryant meant nothing derogatory.
“I think when both parents are working outside the home, it does pull some of the focus off of home life,” Lane said. “You can build your whole life around your children and still work outside the home. I’m proof of that.”
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