- K-12 Education – $100 million for $2500 teacher pay increase
- $41 million for 3rd grade reading program
- $18 million for Pre-K / Early education funding
- $29 million this year for Oxford and Lafayette County schools
- Increased accountability with A-F grading system
- Ole Miss $16 million increase for support and faculty and staff raises
- $30 million in bonds for improvements to Music Hall, Meek Hall and Johnson Commons at Ole Miss
- $23 million for National Board Certified Teachers, Ole Miss Principal Corps, and Miss. Teacher Corps
- Balanced $6 billion state budget
- Transparency in $400M in state savings fund
- Improved our state’s standing with bond rating agencies
- Improved oversight of tax incentive programs
- Improved our state’s balance sheet by limiting debt
- Moratorium on purchasing state vehicles for last 2 years – savings of $10M+
- Economic Development – $3 million to assist city/county expansion of West Oxford Loop to Highway 334
- Cut inventory tax to encourage business to locate in Mississippi
Gray has deep roots in Lafayette County and North Mississippi. His late mother, Kermie Faust Sloan, comes from five generations of Lafayette Springs, Yocona and Delay natives. The Fausts were well-known singers in the country churches around North Mississippi, and Gray’s great-grandfather Enos Kendall Faust served on the Lafayette County School Board. Gray’s father, Grady Tollison, hails from Prentiss and Tippah counties.
Gray grew up in Oxford and graduated from Oxford High School in 1982. His son Grady recently graduated from Oxford High School, and his daughter Laurel is an 11th grader at Oxford. After finishing law school at Ole Miss, he began practicing law with his dad here in Oxford where he has practiced for 24 years. Gray also has a tree farm in Lafayette Springs on land that the Faust family farmed for generations. Gray’s deep roots in Lafayette County and North Mississippi and his dedication to this community led him to run for state senator in 1995.
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST:
When Gray worked for United States Senator John C. Stennis, the Senator taught Gray to put the people’s best interests first, not politics or special interests. Senator Stennis also taught Gray that building coalitions is the key to achieving last results. As State Senator Tollison learned from Senator Stennis, politics is really about people and working to make our community a better place to live.
An effective State Senator must have a solid, working relationship with the people of his district as well as with his legislative colleagues. As the author of over 130 state laws, Gray’s record reflects his ability to work well with people. He knows how important it is to listen. He has been and will continue to be the “messenger” not the “message.”
Gray has put the lessons he learned from Senator Stennis to work for his constituents. For example, Gray was contacted by Miranda Rumfelt of Water Valley, a mother whose 11-month old son Logan had been violently shaken by his father. As a result of the abuse, Logan suffers from cerebral palsy and scoliosis. He suffered seizures every day because more than half of Logan’s brain was destroyed as a result of the violent shaking he had experienced. The father was prosecuted for felony child abuse and convicted to a maximum sentence of 20 years in the state penitentiary.
Miranda wanted Mississippi to increase penalties for child felony abuse. Gray pursued the changes in the law. The legislature passed Senate Bill 2864, known as “Logan’s Law,” which amended Mississippi’s felony child abuse punishment statute to give a Judge discretion to impose a higher sentence than the current maximum sentence of 20 years. Now, persons convicted of this crime can be sentenced to life in prison because of Gray’s work to get this law passed.
As for education, he has used his leadership position as Chair of the Senate Education Committee to promote education policy at the Capitol and advocate for its importance the way our community values education. Gray’s efforts have ensured support and success on all levels of education: K-12, community colleges, universities and adult education. In the four years Gray has served as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, the state legislature has increased funding by $394 million for all education levels. Ole Miss received a $16 million increase over 4 years and $30 million in building improvements to the Music Hall, Meek Hall and Johnson Commons. This year alone, Oxford and Lafayette County K-12 schools received $29 million from the state – an increase of $1.6 million over last year.
As the father of two children in public school, Gray’s goal has been for the last twenty years and continues to be to advocate for increased K-12 funding, especially pre-K funding, improved teacher education training and increased transparency and accountability at our schools in order to improve student outcomes such as reading proficiency and graduation rates and to ensure money goes to the classroom instead of administration. The $100 million teacher pay raise legislation passed in 2014 increased starting teacher salaries by 10%. The 3rd grade reading program funded $41 million to hire literacy coaches to support schools with the greatest needs and literacy training for thousands of K-3 teachers and administrators across the state. Classroom supply money has increased 74% over the last 4 years.
EXPERIENCE AND LEADERSHIP:
Gray has 20 years of experience working on behalf of our community and the State. He is 10th in seniority out of 52 Senators. Four different Lieutenant Governors recognized Gray’s ability and effectiveness by appointing him to serve in various leadership positions. As Chair of the Constitution and Judiciary “B” Committee, he worked with other legislators and building relationships to pass good policies. Gray’s leadership and effectiveness in the legislature is reflected in the 130 pieces of legislation that he has authored that are now law. He has a conservative record that reflects Mississippi values and that supports education and improving the quality of life for this community and all Mississippians.
Gray wants to continue to use his experience to be an effective voice on behalf of our community and our state that will be heard at the State Capitol. Gray particularly wants to continue the work the state legislature began 4 years ago to improve K-12 education to ensure that all children in Mississippi have an opportunity to obtain a quality education regardless of their zip code.
Having grown up in Oxford, Gray recalls the slower pace of Oxford and Ole Miss like many others do. Now, Lafayette County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. He wants to maintain its small town charm that he remembers as a child and that makes Oxford so unique, but at the same time recognize that we are a thriving community that needs to prepare for future growth. This past year, Gray worked with our legislative delegation to secure $3 million in state funds to assist the city and county with the expansion of the West Oxford Loop, a desperately needed connector for citizens and visitors alike.
“As our community continues to grow, I want to work with our city, county and university leaders to ensure support from the state level, especially in the areas of education, transportation, health care and jobs.”