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‘Facts are stubborn things’; State Auditor, MDE debate concerns over state law and use of CARES Act money

State Auditor Shad White, L, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright, R
State Auditor Shad White, L, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright, R(WLBT)
Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 4:35 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) fired back at State Auditor Shad White over his concerns that the department ignored state law.

On Monday Auditor White sent a letter to Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, and Philip Gunn, Speaker of the House regarding Coronavirus Relief Funds and the Mississippi Department of Education.

White says he has concerns MDE has ignored state law and made it more difficult for schools to purchase technology using money from the CARES Act.

Tuesday, MDE issued a response in which State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright disputed White’s claims.

“Mr. White’s August 24, 2020 letter to state leaders and lawmakers is inaccurate and devoid of all context about the intent of this law,” said Dr. Carey Wright. “The MDE is implementing SB 3044 with fidelity and has been working diligently on behalf of districts to ensure every student in Mississippi is equipped with the technology to learn at school or at home. At no point did Mr. White contact me about his concerns.”

White has since responded, doubling down on his position.

“Again, as the letter stated, MDE told schools that schools ‘shall . . . purchase products from vendors listed on the Express Product List.’ This contradicts the law. And I didn’t make those words up. Those are MDE’s words. We have multiple documents showing this, along with emails from MDE confirming that this was their position, along with accounts from several local superintendents who were told this. Facts are stubborn things.

Today, MDE wrote a press release finally acknowledging that schools do not have to buy from MDE’s preferred vendors. I’m glad they changed their position, even if it did take them being called on the carpet. I hope this will give school districts at least some flexibility to buy outside of MDE’s favored vendor list.”

You can read both letters below.

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