Mississippi Department of Education
taylor mississippi

Mississippi Senate rejects nominee for state superintendent of education

March 30, 2023
Supporters of the nomination say Robert Taylor was voted down because he is Black; opponents say his track record turning around underperforming schools was not strong enough.

The Mississippi Senate has rejected the appointment of the nominee for state Superintendent of Education.

The Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports that Robert Taylor, a native Mississippian and a 30-year educator who most recently served as deputy state superintendent for North Carolina, failed to win approval even though he was nominated by the state's education board and had been working in the job since January. The vote was 31 to 21.

“This whole confirmation was a political process, and I knew that coming in,” Taylor told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening after the Senate vote. He said senators in the past have confirmed all previous nominees for state superintendent, and he is disappointed this group of senators did not confirm him.

Those who voted no expressed concerns about the selection process and Taylor's record on underperforming schools.

State Sen. David Jordan, who supported the nomination, is a former longtime schoolteacher. He said Taylor's qualifications were more than adequate.

"He's a great and impressive son of Mississippi, and we rejected him for no reason other than the fact that God made him Black," Jordan said.

Taylor would have been the second Black person appointed to the job.

Sen. Daniel Sparks, who opposed Taylor's appointment, said the state needs a superintendent with a strong record of turning around underperforming schools, but Taylor's answers on that topic in the confirmation hearings left Sparks unconvinced.

Taylor was nominated to fill the job by the Mississippi State Board of Education, which is made up of appointees from the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house. That came at the end of a months-long search to replace State Superintendent Carey Wright.

Taylor started on the job in January, as it is not uncommon for board-appointments to begin work before their confirmation has been made official. Now a new search will need to begin. 

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