School governance changes stall in Legislature

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The leadership of the Legislature and Gov. Phil Bryant started the 2013 session with the goal of conforming the governance of local school districts so that all school board members are elected and all superintendents appointed.
That outcome will not be achieved during the 2013 session.
Late Monday, Bryant vetoed legislation that would have developed a committee to study the issue of electing school board members.
“Mississippi does not need more studies,” Bryant said. “It needs reform.” Bryant said he would work with legislators during the 2014 session to achieve the goal of electing all school board members.
Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said there would not be an effort to override Bryant’s veto. Plus, he said the House and Senate Education committees had the authority to study the issue before the 2014 session without the legislation.
The original intent of the legislation was to elect all school board members, but because of opposition it was amended to create the study committee.
Generally speaking, municipal school districts have school board members appointed by the mayor and governing board and superintendents selected by that appointed school board.
Some districts have a combination of appointed and elected school board members, especially when the municipal district has territory outside of the town’s boundaries. In a few cases, there are areas in school districts outside of the municipal boundaries that do not have any representation on the board.
Of the 146 elected superintendents nationwide, 62 are in Mississippi – primarily in county districts that also have elected school board members.
Legislation dealing with making all superintendents appointed also is facing opposition.
The House proposal gives residents in the districts that have an elected superintendent a vote on whether to change to an appointed school head. The Senate proposal would allow a vote if a specified number of voters signed a petition.
Tollison said he hopes the differences in the two chambers can be worked out in conference and legislation passed this year dealing with appointed superintendents.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com