The 2014 Legislative session kicked off on January 7th. Similar to last session, this year’s legislative session has a strong focus on a variety of issues in education. Lawmakers will consider legislation designed to tweak the processes for implementing the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2013, allocate additional funding for the new preK program, and increase salaries for public school teachers. If you are interested in viewing current Mississippi legislation, Open States is a great online resource. It is updated hourly as progress is made on each bill. Also, be sure to continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay current on Mississippi education policy.

We have also spent time this month setting up our office suite! We now have three employees housed in our office in Jackson just down the street from the Governor’s Mansion. Josh, our Teen Health Policy Coordinator; Angela, our Deputy Director of Policy; and I are located at 125 S. Congress in Suite 1508– stop by and see us!

Best,


Rachel Canter
Executive Director

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IN THIS ISSUE:

Charter Schools
Implementing the new Charter Schools Act of 2013

CHART Initiative
Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens

Pre-Kindergarten
State-funded preK implementation

School Turnaround
Focus on Common Core State Standards

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Charter Schools

Implementing the new Charter Schools Act of 2013

2014 Charter School Legislation:

Currently, there are three bills in the House geared towards revising the current Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2013.

HB 821 was submitted by Representative Charles Busby and addresses open enrollment for charter schools. The bill would revert all government funds back to the student’s school district if a charter school closes. The bill also explains that the charter school’s student may reside in a school district other than that in which the charter school is located. This bill passed committee on February 4 and is currently awaiting action on the House floor.

HB 510 was also submitted by Representative Charles Busby. This revision would require all charter school teachers to possess a teaching license issued by the Mississippi Department of Education within three years of the teacher’s initial employment at the charter school. This bill corrects an error in last year’s bill that required all charter school teachers to be certified within three years of the charter’s opening rather than from three years of a teacher’s employment. This bill would also delete the requirement that the Executive Director of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizing Board be an attorney. The bill passed committee on February 4 and is currently awaiting action on the House floor.

HB 444 was submitted by Representative Brad Mayo. The bill would revise the current Charter School Bill to authorize charter schools to participate in the Public Employee’s Retirement System. On February 4 the bill passed committee and is currently awaiting action on the House floor.

Full Charter School Applications due March 14:

30 applicants submitted letters of intent by the January 22nd deadline. Now the applicants have until March 14 to complete the full application. If you have questions about completing your charter school application, contact Erika Berry at the Mississippi Charter Schools Association. The Mississippi Charter Schools Association drives the development and growth of high-quality public charter schools in Mississippi through school support, advocacy, and outreach.

Other Board News:

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board met again in January to discuss additional organizational business and to review the submitted letters of intent. The Board postponed advertising the Executive Director position to give the Legislature time to remove the requirement that the Executive Director also serve as General Counsel. In lieu of hiring an Executive Director in the short term, the Board approved the hire of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to assist with the application approval process. Following the meeting, the Authorizer Board took questions from organizations that submitted letters of intent. Many of the applicants asked about establishing school budgets and other financial considerations. The Board’s next meeting will be February 17 at 10 AM.

Additional Charter School News:

Later this month, Mississippi First will be releasing two web brochures that will outline what a charter school is and how to start a charter school in Mississippi. These two brochures will be helpful in educating communities and potential school leaders about what a charter school is and how you can establish one in your community.

On February 4, MSF Deputy Director of Policy Angela Bass presented to the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.  EPFP provides a yearlong educational program for employees of state agencies, public schools, community colleges, or universities.  The goal of the program is to identify and nurture a new generation of leaders who are open to new ideas and are willing to work with all public and private agencies that wish to improve educational opportunities for Mississippi and Alabama students.  Angela’s presentation to the fellows focused on dispelling myths about charter schools and the status of charter schools in the state of Mississippi.  Afterwards, she participated in a charter schools panel with Mississippi Charter Schools Association Executive Director Erika Berry moderated by Dr. Linda Coats, Mississippi State University professor of Leadership and Foundations.

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CHART

Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens

Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART Initiative):

Over the last month, Josh, our new Teen Health Policy Coordinator, has been busy compiling and analyzing teen sexual health data from the Mississippi Department of Health. This data will be used to update the CHART priority status for all 82 counties and will help MSF identify additional priority counties as we continue to increase our work in sex education. In the upcoming months, MSF will update all the county data available on the CHART reference page on our website.

This month, the Mississippi Department of Health, Mississippi First, and The Women’s Foundation in partnership with Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) will be releasing the Sexuality Education in Mississippi: Progress in the Magnolia State report. This report outlines the progress Mississippi has made in teaching sexuality education and providing instruction on pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention in public schools. The report also features information on the CHART Initiative. The full report will be available on the Mississippi First website.

In the months ahead, MSF will work with our CHART partners to implement the Working to Institutionalize Sex Education (WISE) Initiative.  This new partnership will allow our staff to take on the following goals:

  • Full-implementation of recommended curricula – Work with districts to ensure that Draw the Line/Respect the Line (grades 6-8) and Reducing the Risk (9th grade) are taught in each grade.

  • Expanded district advocacy – Reach out to additional districts to adopt the CHART abstinence-plus policy

  • Advocacy for local/state policy changes – Recommend policies that will promote health and responsible behavior among Mississippi teens.

In February, Sanford and Josh will be reaching out to parents and CHART districts. Follow us on Facebook to keep updated on our work on the CHART Initiative. For more questions about CHART, please contact Deputy Director of Advocacy Sanford Johnson or Teen Health Policy Coordinator Josh McCawley.

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PreK

State-funded preK implementation

2014 PreK Legislation:

SB 2615 is sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins, and co-sponsored by Senators Kenneth Jones, Gray Tollison, and Sally Doty. This bill will establish an Early Childhood Services Interagency Coordinating Council to assist with the coordination of preK services and to prescribe the powers and duties of the council. The bill passed through the Senate Education Committee on February 4 and awaits action by the full Senate.

Other preK News:

Over the past month, Deputy Director of Policy Angela Bass has been continuing work on preK learning standards begun this summer by our TFA Fellow Camille Cioffi. Angela is finalizing a comparison of Mississippi’s preK learning standards with standards from from across the nation. This research will then inform a new Mississippi First report comparing the comprehensive learning standards defined in the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 with the Mississippi Department of Education’s Early Learning Standards for Four-Year-Olds. Once this report is complete, it will be published in a preK report series that will be featured on the Mississippi First website.

In early March, Mississippi First will be partnering with the Early Learning Policy Group to host a preK event for business leaders in Hattiesburg, MS. This event will raise awareness of the tax credit outlined in the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013. At the event, MSF will explain to businesses how they can access the tax credit to support their community’s preK collaborative. Stay tuned to MSF to hear more details about this event as they are announced.

For more information and for best practices in early education, visit the Mississippi First preK resource page.

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School Turnaround

Focus on Common Core State Standards

This month a Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) released a report on Common Core in Mississippi. In short, the report verifies that (1) improving the nation’s academic standards has been discussed for decades; (2) the federal government was NOT involved in the development or implementation of the standards; and (3) the standards are goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

Over the past two months, Mississippi First launched a campaign via Facebook to support Mississippi’s continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The campaign will be wrapping up this week, but it has increased the MSF Facebook page by over 3,500 likes. One post alone reached 117,632 people! Our expanded reach allows us to keep even more Mississippians current on education policies in our state and to educate the public on how policies will affect students and communities. We will continue to update our Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly. Make sure to follow us!

Interested in receiving updates about Common Core in Mississippi? Stay connected by subscribing to our CommonCoreMS Newsletter. Our newsletter will keep you up-to-date on all information about Common Core.