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Mississippi Senator Gray Tollison Honored as a NASBE Policy Leader of the Year


Alexandria, Va.—The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to honor Gray Tollison, president pro tempore of the Mississippi State Senate, as a 2019 Policy Leader of the Year. The award is given annually to a national or state policymaker in recognition of their contributions to education.

Gray Tollison has been a state senator in Mississippi since 1996, serving as chairman of the Senate Education Committee since 2012. In 2019, he was elected Senate president pro tempore. He also serves on committees for public health and welfare, finance, and universities and colleges. Senator Tollison has been recognized for his leadership in college and career readiness, improved accountability of schools and districts, literacy, early learning, and juvenile justice, among other areas.

During Tollison’s tenure, Mississippi has achieved unprecedented academic success, with Education Week’s Quality Counts report naming it one of the top five most improved in the nation in 2018. Mississippi was also named one of the fastest improving states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which highlighted Mississippi in its 2018 report.

“Senator Tollison has spearheaded major education reforms in Mississippi that resulted in significant gains in student achievement,” said Mississippi State Board Member John Kelly, who nominated him for the award. “He was instrumental in the passage of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, the Early Learning Collaborative Act, which launched the state’s first publicly funded pre-K program, and an improved accountability A through F grading system for schools and school districts.”

“I deeply appreciate receiving this award from NASBE,” Senator Tollison said. “No senator working alone can deliver gains in student achievement; it takes the dedicated efforts of many policy, business, and community leaders. I appreciate the collaborative spirit in which Mississippi leaders came together to put our students first in order to achieve lasting results.”

“The Policy Leader of the Year award is the highest honor that state board of education members can bestow,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “Senator Tollison has helped lead Mississippi to new heights in public education. Because of his wide-ranging efforts, collaborative leadership style, and abiding commitment to educational excellence, Mississippi is showing the nation what strong leadership in education can accomplish.”

Tollison has been a member the Tollison Law Firm in Oxford, Mississippi, since 1992.  He previously was law clerk for Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Armis E. Hawkins and worked on the staff of U.S. Senator John C. Stennis.

The 2019 Policy Leader of the Year Award will be presented to Senator Tollison on Friday, October 18, 2019, at NASBE’s  annual conference in Omaha, Nebraska. He will also join other Mississippi policymakers for a panel discussion on leadership and collaboration during the conference.

For 60 years, NASBE has served as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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