Introduction to the Presumptive Speaker-Elect


According to recent news reports, Rep. Phillip Gunn (R-Clinton) is the GOP choice to become the first Republican Speaker of the House since Reconstruction.  If he does become the next speaker, he will have tremendous influence on whether the Mississippi House addresses our policy goals.  In order to get a sense of where he stands on pre-K, charter schools, sex education, and other education policy issues, I took a look at bills he sponsored, co-sponsored, and/or voted on during the 2011 legislative session.  Here’s what I found…Pre-Kindergarten
The two Pre-K bills introduced in the house this past session – one to create a task force to study pre-K and another to create an internet-based pre-K program – both died in committee, meaning that there were no bills for Gunn to vote on. In the coming session, MSF hopes to determine his position on a collaborative delivery model for pre-K.

Charter Schools
Very little has happened on charter schools since the 2010 passage of the conversion charter school law, which Rep. Gunn voted for. During the 2011 session, Gunn sponsored HB 1102, which would have allowed conversion and new-start charter schools. The bill died in committee.  A more expansive charter school law appears to be a top legislative priority for the new House majority, so expect to see a bill make it to the House floor during the upcoming session.  

Sex Education
HB 999 is the sex education bill that went into effect July 1, 2011. After the original version of the  bill passed the House, the Senate added several new restrictions regarding how sex ed could be taught. The House ultimately accepted the Senate’s changes and sent the bill to the governor.  During this process, Rep. Gunn voted against the original bill and also voted against the Senate version.   

Other Education Bills Sponsored by Gunn
HB 1103 – Prohibits the State Board of Education from revising social studies curricula for political/philosophical reasons. (Response to controversial curriculum changes made in Texas)
[died in committee]

HB 1104 – Requires public school districts to adopt a policy that prohibits students from being promoted to the next grade if they’re reading below grade level (with some exceptions)
[died in committee]

HB 1281 – Requires MDE to annually determine the percentage of MAEP funds (explanation of MAEP from The Parents’ Campaign) that must be allocated for “direct classroom instruction.”
[died in committee]

While we can’t determine where he stands on pre-K, his votes indicate strong support for charter schools and opposition to sex education.  The bills that he sponsored also reveal an interest in the allocation of ed funds, student achievement, and a concern over the politicization of state education policies.  As we look forward to the session, we await news of Representative Gunn’s selections for committee memberships, particularly the Education Committee.

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