HB274

UPDATE on 3/11/20: The House unanimously passed HB274 yesterday. It will now be transmitted to the Senate.

The House Education Committee passed HB274 on February 25, 2020. The bill updates the requirements applicants must meet to qualify for the Higher Education Legislative Plan (HELP) Grant Program to align with changes in the college preparatory curriculum, as determined by the IHL Board of Trustees. As such, HB274 would remove the specific number of high school curricular units required of HELP applicants, including the requirement that applicants complete one unit each of art and an advanced elective. Instead, applicants would simply need to complete the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC) determined by the IHL Board of Trustees before graduating from high school.

The HELP Grant is a need-based program available to undergraduate students with a minimum composite ACT score of 20 and a high school GPA of 2.5. Students who meet these academic requirements and whose families have an adjusted gross income of less than $39,500 per year are eligible to receive a grant covering tuition and related fees at any two- or four-year college or university in Mississippi. In the 2018-2019 school year, the HELP Program provided 3,959 awards averaging $6,113 per award.

HB994

UPDATE on 3/11/20: The House passed an amended HB994 on March 4, 2020 with slight changes in language to clarify some of the bill’s provisions. It has now been transmitted to the Senate, which has also passed a similar bill with slightly different provisions. 

The House Education Committee passed HB994 on February 25, 2020. This bill expands access to teacher education programs at Mississippi’s four-year colleges and universities. Similar to Senate Bill 2511, HB994 would effectively waive the standardized test score requirements to enter all traditional and most alternate route teacher preparation programs for applicants with a minimum GPA, thereby opening an additional pathway into teacher preparation based solely on the applicant’s GPA. Whereas SB2511 sets the GPA requirement at 3.0, HB994 calls for a minimum GPA of 2.75.

Under § 37-3-2 of current law, applicants to traditional route teacher education programs must hold a minimum GPA of 2.75 on pre-major coursework, and must also score a minimum of 21 on the ACT or earn a passing score on the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (CASE) exam. Both SB2511 and HB994 would separate these requirements into three distinct pathways in which an applicant would only need to meet one of the three criteria: ACT, CASE, or GPA. These requirements would also apply to all alternate route teacher education programs except for the Teach Mississippi Institute (TMI) program, which additionally requires applicants to earn a passing score on the relevant Praxis subject assessment. Under both bills, requirements for licensure after completion of a traditional or alternate route program would remain unchanged.

Unlike SB2511, HB994 also adjusts how the four sites for TMI are apportioned throughout the state. Under § 37-3-2 of current law, one TMI site is to be located in each of the three Mississippi Supreme Court districts, with an additional TMI site to have no geographic restrictions. Under HB994, one TMI site is to be located in each of the four Mississippi Congressional districts. There are currently two TMI sites; one at University of Mississippi (Supreme Court District 3 and Congressional District 1) and one at University of Southern Mississippi (Supreme Court District 2 and Congressional District 4). 

HB1147

UPDATE on 3/11/20: The House Appropriations Committee did not meet the March 3, 2020 deadline to pass HB1147. The bill is now dead.

The House Education Committee passed HB1147 on February 25, 2020. The bill caps the number of forgivable loans available through the Teacher Education Alternate Route Certification Scholars Program. Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, HB1147 would cap the number of forgivable loans at 200, with an additional 200 available each year until the program reaches 1,000 annual forgivable loans. Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, no more than 1,000 students would be awarded forgivable loans annually through this program.

The Teacher Education Alternate Route Certification Scholars Program provides annual forgivable loans of no more than $5,000 to students completing one of the following alternate route programs: Teach Mississippi Institute (TMI), Mississippi Alternate Path to Quality Teachers (MAPQT) Training Institute, Career Tech Education (CTE), or Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Applicants to this program must hold a bachelor’s degree, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, meet the “minimum score requirements for national exams as required for educator certification,” and agree to teach at least one year in a Mississippi public school. 

Despite being in place since the 2015-2016 school year, the Teacher Education Alternate Route Certification Scholars Program has yet to be funded by the legislature and has not awarded any forgivable loans.

HB1147 is double-referred to the House Education Committee and the House Appropriations Committee; it will now need to pass the Appropriations Committee in order to make it to a floor vote. The deadline for the bill to pass the Appropriations Committee is March 3, 2020.

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