2012 Legislative Wrap-up
You can see how your legislators voted on bills tracked by The Parents' Campaign by clicking here.
Bills of interest that passed during this session on which The Parents' Campaign did not take a position include:
HB 707, which affects the start date of school. This bill says that school may not begin before the third Monday in August. Because a minimum of 180 instructional days is required, it is possible that school holidays will be reduced or that students will go to school into June. It is also possible that first semester exams will be given after the Christmas holiday. The change will take effect beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.
SB 2776, which requires that schools and school districts be assigned ratings of "A," "B," "C," "D," or "F" based upon their accountability ratings. School and school district ratings will be assigned based on the following:
"Star" will become "A"
"High Performing" will become "B"
"Successful" will become "C"
"Academic Watch" will become "D"
"Low Performing," "At Risk of Failing," and "Failing" will become "F"
SB 2760, which consolidated the six school districts in Bolivar County into three: the Cleveland Municipal School District, the North Bolivar School District (combines North Bolivar and Mound Bayou), and the West Bolivar School District (combines West Bolivar, Shaw, and Benoit). The superintendents will be appointed by their local school boards.
SB 2330, which consolidated the three school districts in Sunflower County into one. The superintendent will be appointed by the local school board.
SB 2737, a bill we supported, allows parents of students in school districts that lose accreditation to request a legal transfer to an accredited district with the funding to follow the child. This will help to move us closer to our goal of ensuring that every Mississippi child has access to an excellent public school.
SB 2792 will allow students to be dually enrolled in high school completion courses and in a community college credential, certificate, or degree program, a move that we hope will improve Mississippi's graduation rate and ensure that more students graduate from high school workplace-ready. This, too, is a bill we supported.
Some of the most important action on education legislation was on bills that did not pass. We were pleased that the Senate defeated HB 1101, the UPSTART bill, which would have allowed state funding to be used to purchase computers for an online preschool system run by an out-of-state organization with a poor track record.
And, though we can't claim a charter school victory, we are pleased that the House of Representatives refused to adopt bad charter school legislation. As one House leader said, this issue is too important to rush through a bad charter school bill just to say that we got something passed. The bill that passed the Senate did not focus charter schools where they are needed (where children are trapped in underperforming schools) and it did not require that charter school operators have a record of success in educating children. Rather, it would have allowed just about anyone to create a charter school anywhere, even where we have "Star" schools.
HB 1593, the K-12 funding bill, funds the MAEP at $19.4-million above the current level. Because $23-million of the MAEP funding will be used for the mandatory increase in payments to the retirement system, schools will have about $3.6-million less than they have this year to put into the classroom. It appears that virtually all of that cut will be applied to the high growth districts. With the increase in retirement, the MAEP will be underfunded by almost $260-million.