By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The charter school debate has dominated much of the first month of the legislative session, but House and Senate leaders have stressed that other efforts to improve education are coming.
On Friday, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and some key members of his leadership team held a news briefing where he reiterated that other education legislation will be considered, including efforts to invest state money in early childhood education, make all school superintendents appointed and improve third-grade reading.
Gunn said the House would “bring forward a full array of ideas for comprehensive education reform.”
Another proposal that Gunn said will be considered is to offer scholarships to top-performing students to try to entice them to go into teaching and work in areas with low-performing school districts.
Many of the proposals, such as improving third-grade reading, recruiting top students to the teaching profession and investing in early childhood education, also are part of Gov. Phil Bryant’s Education Works proposals.
The Senate Education Committee already has passed legislation that would make all superintendents appointed unless people in the district vote to retain an elected superintendent. Moore said the House Education Committee also will take up separate legislation to make all school boards elected.
Currently in Mississippi, about half the superintendents are elected and some school boards are appointed while others are elected.
Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, is proposing a plan to provide tax credits to companies that provide scholarships for low-income children to go to quality day care programs that would be developed through early learning collaborative organizations that could include various groups, including the public schools and day care providers.
But House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said there was little chance of fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program this year, though he said he would support it if the money was available. Frierson said he also supports placing in law a definition of average daily attendance since school districts are not using a uniform method of counting attendance.
The money going to school districts through the Adequate Education Program is determined by average daily attendance.
Many other education proposals are pending, such as Bryant’s plan to provide scholarships to allow students in low-performing districts to go to private school and repeal of a constitutional prohibition on providing state funds to non-public schools. Both of those proposals would take more than a simple majority to pass.