Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison has officially introduced SB 2401, the Mississippi Public Charter School Act of 2012. Although other legislators have introduced charter legislation during this session, it is near certain that this bill will be the one that will work its way through the legislature.
In the coming days, we will provide you with additional information about the bill. In the meantime, we can share the following details:
- This bill will allow for the conversion of traditional public schools, the creation of new or “start-up” charter schools, and the establishment of virtual charter schools.
- The bill establishes the Mississippi Public Charter School Authorizer Board, an independent state agency that will serve as the single authorizer for charter schools in the state.
- If signed into law, the board will formally meet after September 1st, and a request for proposals (charter applications) will be publicized by December 1st.
More information will be coming soon, specifically an analysis of this bill based on the recommendations from our 2010 white paper.
Update on education bills introduced in the Senate
With committee assignments already in place, state senators have already started dropping bills. Several education bills have been referred to the SenateEducation Committee. Below are two bills that are related to MSF policy goals.
Funds for Early Learning
SB 2061, introduced by Sen. Kevin E. Butler, would provide funding for the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2007. This fund could be used to fundcollaborative pre-K programs, which are recommended in Leaving Last in Line, MSF’s policy brief on pre-K. In addition to this bill, Sen. Butler alsointroduced SB 2070, which would establish compulsory school attendance for Kindergartners (similar bill introduced by Sen. Briggs Hopson). We areinterested in both these bills; however, they would need some tweaks to conform with our recommendations in Leaving Last in Line.
Pre-K for Under-performing Districts
SB2115, introduced by Sen. David Jordan, would require under-performing school districts in the Delta to establish pre-Kindergarten programs. Sen.Hopson also introduced SB 2185, which would create a “phased-in” pre-K program.
Sen. Jordan introduced SB 2120, which would require two years of post-secondary education for local school board members. Also introduced wasSB 2313, a bill introduced by Senate Ed Chair Gray Tollison that would require all district superintendents to be appointed by 1/1/2016.
This is very early in the process, so you can expect to see many more bills in the coming weeks. We’ll keep you posted.
Introduction to the new Senate Education Committee Chair
Senator Gray Tollison was selected by Lt. Governor Reeves to serve as the chair of the Senate Education Committee. This appointment will give the senator tremendous influence on the education-related bills considered by the legislature.
Below is a brief description of where Sen. Tollison stood on MSF policy goals and other education-related issues during the previous legislative session.
Very little action has taken place in the Senate on pre-Kindergarten. A bill designed to create a foundation committed to early childhood development died in the Senate Ed Committee, which happened without a recorded vote.
Tollison has supported charter legislation during previous sessions, and he voted for Sen. Michael Watson’s charter school bill last year, which died in the House Education Committee. With both the Governor and Lt. Governor making charter schools a top legislative priority, it seems highly likely that Sen. Tollison will support a new law.
Tollison supported the senate version of HB999, which ultimately became our new sex ed law. It is unclear whether or not the senator would have voted for the original, less-restrictive House version.
Other Education Bills Authored by Tollison
SB2241 - To delete the provision that would have allowed parents to dis-enroll their children in full-day Kindergarten [died in committee]
SB2631 - To establish the Task Force to Study Teacher Salaries [passed in Senate, died in House committee]
SB2684 - Requires the State Board of Education to set the salary of the State Superintendent of Education [signed into law by the governor]
An additional factoid about Senator Tollison is that he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican shortly after the November elections.
More to come...
Mississippi's scores and comments from the Early Learning Challenge have been posted to the U.S. Department of Education's website. The department also released the rankings of scores, which provided pretty sobering news for the magnolia state. Of the 37 applications reviewed for this competitive grant, Mississippi's application ranked a very dissappointing 35th. Only Hawaii and Puerto Rico earned lower scores than we did.
Click here for links to our scores, comments, and rankings.
The third round of Race to the Top represents the third missed opportunity for our state. After failing to submit an application during the 1st round, we have score third-to-last in last two rounds. This poor performance has denied our state millions of dollars, not to mention opportunities to implement long-overdue education reforms.
When it comes to federal education funding, it appears that competitive grants are here to stay. At some point, policymakers in Mississippi must accept this, and then get serious about being competitve.
Mississippi comes up short.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Health & Human Services have just announced the winners of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC). The grant competition was designed to support states that created high-quality plans to improve early learning standards, increase access to high-quality early ed programs, and to improve workforce training and support.
And the winners are: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Six of the nine ELC members were also Race to the Top winners in 2010 (CA, MN, and WA are the three exceptions). North Carolina is the only southern winner among the six southern states that applied. In all, 36 states and the District of Columbia submitted applications.
As expected, Mississippi was one of the 28 applicants that didn’t win funding. We previously stated that as one of only 11 states in the country without state-funded pre-K, submitting an application that lacked even a pilot pre-K model left us with little hope of winning.
Final scores and reviewer comments should be released in the coming days. When this happens, you can find them here at mississippifirst.org.