The 2021 legislative session has now come to a close. There are still certain bills that are awaiting the Governor’s signature. We will continue to update this post accordingly.
HB 852: Approved by the Governor
On March 29, 2021, HB 852 was approved by the Governor.
On March 18, 2021, the House voted to concur with the amended HB 852. The bill—which provides a $1,110 raise to beginner teachers as well as a $1,000 raise to all other teachers, including teacher assistants—now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Upon the House’s concurrence with the amended HB 852, however, House Education Chair Richard Bennet noted that there may be further legislative action regarding teacher pay:
“We’re trying to do something for incentives for teachers, so it is a possibility that we will come back to you and ask for unanimous consent to suspend the rules… hopefully we can come back with a little more of an incentive-type package.”
It is unclear, at the moment, what Chair Bennet is referring to, but we will continue to pay close attention to the matter.
On March 4, 2021, the Senate passed HB 852. Because the bill was amended by the Senate (see 3/3/21 update), it must now pass the House again. The House may either vote to pass the amended bill as is or send the bill to a conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate.
SB 2001: DEAD
On March 2, 2021, the Senate Education and Appropriations Committees passed an amended HB 852 that substitutes the language of SB 2001—which is now dead—for the original HB 852. In effect, the only difference is now that HB 852 would only provide a $1,000 salary increase for assistant teachers (rather than the original $1,100). HB 852 is now awaiting action on the Senate floor.
SB 2001 and HB 852 would each adjust the minimum salary schedule for certified teachers to bring the starting salary to $37,000 (an increase of $1,110) for the 2021-2022 school year, while also increasing the salary of all other certified teachers by $1,000. SB 2001 would increase the minimum salary for assistant teachers by $1,000 while HB 852 would increase this salary by $1,100.
SB 2001 and HB 852 fall short of providing the $3,000 raise that we believe is necessary to meaningfully address Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage, but any size raise will be a welcome improvement for Mississippi public school teachers. Particularly if legislators can commit to an additional raise in 2022, either SB 2001 or HB 852 is a step in the right direction for compensating teachers with a livable wage while attracting additional teacher candidates into Mississippi’s educator pipeline.
On January 25, SB 2001 passed the Senate unanimously and has now been transmitted to the House, while on February 10, HB 852 passed the House 117-3 and has now been transmitted to the Senate. Lawmakers will ultimately have to reconcile the two bills to ensure passage, though the only difference between the two is a $100 difference in the allotted raise for assistant teachers. Remember also that the appropriations bill for the Department of Education must also reflect the increased funding required for the raise. That bill will not be finalized until the budget is finished later in the session.
HB 1179: Conference report filed and adopted; Awaiting Governor’s signature (90%)
On March 28, 2021, the House and Senate approved the Conference Report for HB 1179, which will send a finalized version of the bill to the Governor’s office for signing. HB 1179 as laid out in the Conference Report contains two changes from the version initially passed by the Senate. First, the award amounts have been lowered to a maximum of $7,500 over three years for recipients in non-shortage areas ($1,500 in the first year, $2,500 in the second, $3,500 in the third) and $15,000 over three years for recipients in critical shortage areas ($4,000 in the first year, $5,000 in the second, $6,000 in the third). Second, HB 1179 now caps the number of new recipients each year at 150. HB 1179 now awaits the Governor’s signature.
On March 18, 2021, the House voted to invite conference on the amended HB 1179. Conferrees from the Senate and the House will meet in the coming weeks to come to a bicameral understanding on HB 1179.
On March 9, 2021, the Senate passed HB 1179. Because the bill was amended by the Senate, it must now pass the House again. The House may either vote to pass the amended bill as is or send the bill to a conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate.
On March 2, 2021, the Senate Education and Appropriations Committees passed an amended HB 1179 that substitutes the language of SB 2305—which is now dead—for the original HB 1179. The amended HB 1179 is quite similar, except that it now opens up the Winter-Reed Program to teachers who attended college out of state and clarifies that award amounts for teachers who switch districts will be based on the critical shortage status of their current district. It is now awaiting action on the Senate floor.
As we described in an earlier blog post, SB 2305 would create the William F. Winter and Jack Reed, Sr., Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which would incentivize recent college graduates to teach in Mississippi, particularly in a critical shortage area, by offering up to three years of loan repayment assistance. In its current form, SB 2305 would authorize the Winter-Reed Program to offer up to $10,500 over three years for teachers in non-shortage areas and $16,500 for those in critical shortage areas. HB 1179 is almost identical, though this version would require recipients to have attended college in Mississippi and does not specify that teachers moving to a critical shortage area (whether they were in one before or not) would receive the increased award.
SB 2305 and HB 1179 each would help reduce student debt for beginner teachers, but because of how the proposed Winter-Reed Program is structured under both bills, we do not believe it provides a strong enough incentive to college students deciding whether to enter an educator preparation program (EPP) in the first place. This is because the proposed Winter-Reed Program only offers an incentive to teachers who have already graduated from an educator preparation program (EPP) and earned a license; students deciding to enter an EPP will still have to take on loans and hope the program will be available and that funding will be high enough when they graduate. Additionally, because eligible teachers would only receive loan repayment assistance at the end of each school year, participants’ monthly student loan payments would not be lowered by this program. This is why we proposed pairing loan repayment with upfront undergraduate grants in our recent report. Still, with student debt levels regularly climbing into the tens of thousands for individuals, the proposed Winter-Reed Program could lessen the time it takes for participants to pay off student loans, which would be a welcomed benefit for Mississippi teachers.
On February 4, SB 2305 passed the Senate 47-2 and has now been transmitted to the House. However, because the Senate passed SB 2305 with a reverse repealer, we believe the bill will likely go to conference, as the House will have to amend the bill to take out the reverse repealer before passage. In conference, members of both the Senate and the House will have to come together and hash out the final version, likely with an eye towards budget realities, which will be more definite at that point. We therefore anticipate there will be changes to SB 2305 from its current form if it makes it to the Governor’s desk.
On February 10, HB 1179 also passed the House 113-7 and has now been transmitted to the Senate, though we anticipate that SB 2305 has a higher likelihood of moving forward.
Senate Bill 2267: Conference report filed and adopted; Awaiting Governor’s signature (90%)
On March 28, 2021, the Senate and House approved the conference report for SB 2267, which will send a finalized version of the bill to the Governor’s office for signing. SB 2267 as laid out in the Conference Report contains two changes from the initial version of this bill. First, the maximum time for the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to process an application for license reciprocity has been extended from 14 days to 21. Second, a provision was added that grants a one-year extension to all teaching licenses that are set to expire June 30, 2021. Teachers with licenses that are set to expire on this date will have until June 30, 2022 to renew their licenses. SB 2267 now awaits the Governor’s signature.
On March 12, 2021, the Senate voted to invite conference on SB 2267. Conferrees from the Senate and the House will meet in the coming weeks to come to a bicameral understanding on SB 2267.
On March 9, 2021, the House passed HB 2267. Because the bill was amended by the House, it must now pass the Senate again. The Senate may either vote to pass the amended bill as is or send the bill to a conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate.
On March 2, 2021, the House Education Committee passed SB 2267. It is now awaiting action on the House floor.
SB 2267 would allow any teacher with a valid standard teaching license from out-of-state to be granted a standard five-year license in Mississippi within fourteen days of completing an application for such a license. State law currently allows for reciprocity in licensure, but it requires out-of-state applicants to meet “minimum Mississippi license requirements or equivalent requirements as determined by the State Board of Education.”
Because the specific coursework and standardized tests required for obtaining a teaching license vary by state, defining “equivalent requirements” can be subjective and may have led to qualified teachers being denied Mississippi licenses. SB 2267 seeks to ease the administrative burden of assessing the qualifications of an out-of-state applicant, while encouraging such applicants to relocate to Mississippi to teach.
On February 4, SB 2267 passed the Senate and has now been transmitted to the House.
HB 1123: Approved by the Governor
On March 29, 2021, HB 1123 was approved by the Governor while SB 2664 died on the calendar after the House chose not to name conferees.
After going through the process HB 1123 made it to the Governor’s desk and was signed yesterday. The final version contains ONLY the technical amendments to the pre-K law. You can read the final version here.
HB 1387, the education budget for FY2022, was adopted by the House and Senate and will go to the Governor in the next few days. It has three important provisions: 1) The bill contains a total appropriation of $16M for the collaboratives (lines 580-588). This is an increase of $8,210,526 over FY2021 levels (see line 79), which can go to expand programs at current sites or to expand to new sites. The new money is coming from lottery funds that boosted the Education Enhancement Fund. The other $7,789,474 of the total appropriation comes from the general fund (just like last year). Splitting the funding this way ensures that pre-K has a base of recurring general funds. 2) The bill also preserves the rate increase via the budget for one more year (lines 580-588). This means collaboratives will continue to receive the extra $350 they got last year. 3) Finally, there is a line-item of $1.5M for pre-K coaches. This will help the Mississippi Department of Education program office continue to provide high-quality professional experiences to pre-K teachers in collaboratives without being totally reliant on philanthropic funds.
SB 2664: died on the calendar. Next year, we will continue to work to make the rate change permanent year to year.
On March 29, 2021, the House and Senate filed a conference report on HB 1387, the budget bill for education. The House then adopted the Conference Report; now it awaits approval from the Senate. The Conference Report for HB 1387 included updates to the rate language and total appropriation for the Early Learning Collaboratives. The funding will be split between the general fund and lottery funds. The lottery funds will cover $8,210,526 and the general fund will cover $7,789,474, which is the same amount as last year. This means the legislature has doubled its commitment for pre-K to $16M!
On March 12, 2021, the Senate voted to invite conference on SB 2664. Conferrees from the Senate and the House will meet in the coming weeks to come to a bicameral understanding on SB 2664. Meanwhile, on March 18, 2021, the House voted to concur with the amended HB 1123, which will send this bill to the Governor. Because HB 1123 does not include rate increase language, this will be a central matter to SB 2664 as it goes into conference.
On March 10, 2021, the Senate passed the amended HB 1123. Because both SB 2664 and HB 1123 would now have to be passed by the Senate and the House, respectively, we expect a final bill to be determined in conference.
On March 9, 2021, the House passed SB 2664. With HB 1123 likely to pass the Senate in the coming days, it is likely that a final bill will be determined in conference.
On March 2, the Senate Education committee adopted a strike-all for HB1123 that replaces it with the language from SB2664. The bill passed the committee and then passed Senate Appropriations. It is now awaiting a floor vote. The House Education committee adopted an amendment to SB2664 to insert the rate increase language and passed the committee; it now also awaits floor action. If both vehicles survive floor action, the final version will most likely be determined in conference.
The legislature is still considering two bills related to the state’s pre-K program, the Early Learning Collaborative Act. SB 2664 makes technical changes to the code that the Mississippi Department of Education requested after the first eight years of implementation. In addition to aligning program requirements to match the 2017 updates to the quality benchmarks from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the bill clarifies that early learning collaboratives (ELCs) should implement an “evidence-based curriculum” if available and aligns the definition of the term to match that in the Every Student Succeeds Act (a “statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes”). SB 2664 would also require MDE to submit reports every three years that provide “rigorous evaluation of program effectiveness using longitudinal data.”
House Bill 1123 is a more comprehensive version of SB 2664. It includes all the changes in SB 2664 as well as a change to the per-pupil funding rate, which was placed in the budget bill last year. This change would raise the floor for the per-pupil funding rate to $5,000 per child (with a 1:1 local match) but allow the legislature flexibility to determine the actual rate above that on an annual basis through the budget.
On February 4, SB 2664 passed the Senate and has now been transmitted to the House. House Bill 1123 passed the House on February 16 and has now been transmitted to the Senate.
HB 135: Approved by the Governor
On March 17, 2021, HB 135 was approved by the Governor.
On March 9, the Senate passed HB 135. It will now be up to the Governor whether to sign the bill into law.
On March 2, the Senate Education Committee passed HB 135. It is now awaiting floor action in the Senate.
SB 2527 and HB 135 would each extend the repealer on the remaining provisions of the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act of 1998 from July 1, 2021, to July 1, 2024. Currently, the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act consists of a series of in-service incentives—meaning they are targeted towards teachers who are already licensed and teaching—meant to attract teachers to geographic shortage areas around the state. These incentives include reimbursements for interview and moving expenses, scholarships for teachers working towards Master of Education or Educational Specialist degrees, a forgivable home loan program, and a pilot program for providing rental housing for teachers in West Tallahatchie.
The main intention of SB 2527 and HB 135 is to give the legislature additional time to study participation in these programs as well as their efficacy. It appears that at least some of these initiatives have received little to no funding since their inception, and it is an open question how many teachers have benefited from these programs in recent years. The two bills are quite similar with the only differences being that SB 2527 repeals the West Tallahatchie pilot program and HB 125 requires reimbursements for interview expenses to be paid with funds other than MAEP.
Both bills have passed their respective houses and are now transmitted to the opposite house.
SB 2547 would restrict eligibility for Mississippi’s three undergraduate grant programs by increasing the minimum ACT score requirements for each program:
- The Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG) Program—a $500-$1,000 scholarship intended to help middle-income students who do not qualify for Pell Grants—would see its minimum ACT requirement increase from 15 to 17.
- The Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MESG) Program—a scholarship worth up to $2,500 intended to incentivize high-achieving students to attend college in-state—would see its minimum ACT requirement increase from 29 to 30.
- The Higher Education Legislative Plan (HELP) Grant Program—the state’s only need-based scholarship, intended to cover all tuition and fees for low-income students—would retain its minimum ACT requirement of 20, but would now require students to achieve this score from a single test administration, rather than banking subscores across multiple attempts.
Experts at IHL and other observers have raised questions in recent years about the efficacy of MTAG and MESG. The size of each grant has not been increased to reflect the skyrocketing cost of college since the programs began, meaning that they cover a smaller and smaller percentage of the cost of attendance each year and likely make little difference in a recipients’ ability to attend college. Recipients of these grants also skew whiter and wealthier than the general population of Mississippi. Yet in 2020, the state spent a combined $17.9 million on these grants.
On February 10, SB 2547 passed the Senate with a reverse repealer amendment, meaning the legislature will continue to examine this bill closely and likely make additional changes as it moves forward. (A reverse repealer repeals the bill before it can take effect, making it a dead letter bill. This is a legislative strategy to ensure a bill goes to conference for further work after passage in the opposite house.)
On March 29, 2021, HB 1301 died in conference.
On March 16, 2021, the House voted to invite conference on the amended HB 1301. Conferrees from the Senate and the House will meet in the coming weeks to come to a bicameral understanding on HB 1301.
On March 10, 2021, the Senate passed an amended HB 1301 with a reverse repealer, meaning it will likely go to conference for further work. For now, the bill now heads to the House.
On March 2, 2021, the Senate Education and Economic and Workforce Development Committees passed an amended HB 1301 which strips all provisions of the original bill except one that requires the state to make a “career readiness assessment” available to any students electing to take it. Notably, the amended HB 1301 does not require that this assessment specifically be the ACT WorkKeys. HB 1301 is now awaiting action on the Senate floor.
HB 536, HB 849, and HB 1253 all passed their respective committees, but were stripped of any provisions relating to education. As such, we will not be tracking these bills any further.
HB 536, HB 849, HB 1253, and HB 1301 would all make substantial changes to Mississippi’s K-12 accountability rating system by including the ACT WorkKeys Assessment—a series of standardized tests that “measure a range of hard and soft skills relevant to any occupation”—and weighting it in the same percentage as the standard ACT. HB 849 would require all students to take the ACT WorkKeys, while HB 536, HB 1253, and HB 1301 would only make the WorkKeys available to students who elect to take it.
All four bills address aspects of Mississippi’s career and technical education (CTE) pathway, including provisions that require school districts to notify students of CTE pathway options and specify that CTE instructors with an “expert citizen” license need only an “industry-recognized credential” (rather than necessarily requiring them to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree). HB 849, in particular, would allow teachers with provisional licenses who have taught for at least five years to receive standard five-year renewable licenses, even if they have not passed the requisite standardized tests. Yet the most consequential aspects of these bills are the provisions pertaining to the ACT WorkKeys Assessment and Mississippi’s K-12 accountability rating system.
All four bills have passed the House and will now be transmitted to the Senate, where we anticipate there will be significant attention paid to the WorkKeys provisions. Because of the substantial overlap between the four bills, the Senate will likely choose to focus on only one of the four, if any pass out of committee before the March 2 deadline.
Considering the number of House bills that this language has been inserted into, we also expect to see the House take a somewhat unrelated Senate bill, if the opportunity presents itself, and insert this language there as well. We will be watching closely to see if this happens.
HB 302 would authorize the implementation of “community schools” under the administration of districts of innovation. Under HB 302, a community school is defined as a traditional public school that “partners with community-based organizations to coordinate academic, social, physical health and mental health services, to reduce barriers to learning and improve education outcomes.” To achieve this vision, community schools must offer student supports such as medical and mental health services, expanded academic and extracurricular opportunities outside of traditional school hours, and a STEM program as a “meaningful part of its curriculum.” There must also be educational opportunities for students’ families and a community-wide leadership team that includes a full-time “community school director.”
Other components of HB 302 include a provision that allows schools and districts to avoid state takeover if they become eligible under any of the takeover laws, as the bill provides schools and districts moving to the community schools model a three-year transition period before the state can take them over. Another provision that allows community schools to accept grants, donations, and gifts. More generally for districts of innovation, HB 302 would require district applicants to increase student attendance, decrease student suspensions and expulsions, increase STEM offerings, and publicly report on goals and performance targets.
On February 10, HB 302 passed the House and has now been transmitted to the Senate.