Legislative Update (1/17/19)
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
Many of this week’s meetings at the capitol involved appropriation subcommittees in preparation of work on the FY 2020 budget. Neither the House nor Senate Education Committee have met yet. Committees have until Tuesday, February 5, to report (i.e., pass) general bills originating in their own chamber (i.e., Senate or House). We will issue our first bill tracking spreadsheet on Friday, February 8. As of 7:30 a.m. this morning, 43 bills had been referred to the Senate Education Committee and 104 were referred to House Education. This number will increase, as all bills that legislators have requested have not been introduced, including several testing bills. Among the bills which have been introduced and assigned to committee:
- HB 34 allows PERS members to receive a retirement allowance while serving in the legislature, while HB 457 allows retired educators to receive a retirement allowance while serving in the legislature. Rep. Jay Hughes is the author of both bills.
- HB 131, authored by Rep. Tracy Arnold, revises the assignment of points for purposes of the accountability system for K-12 attendance centers. The bill provides that a grade be assigned for grades K-8 on a 700-point scale and another grade be assigned for grades 9-12 on a 1,000-point scale.
- HB 574 amends the current School Recognition Program law to clarify that all certified teachers, licensed vocational teachers, certified staff and teacher’s aides in a school are eligible for the funds. The bill also provides that funds awarded to a school will be allocated equally proportionate among all eligible employees, but funds to teacher’s aides may be a percentage of the amount provided to certified and licensed staff. Rep. Richard Bennett, chairman of the House Education Committee, is the author of HB 574.
- SB 2029 removes the requirement that dyslexia scholarships be used only at special purpose schools and allows them to be used at any private school, including out-of-state schools. The bill also eliminates the current requirement that each school submit its annual audit to the State Board of Education. Senator Kevin Blackwell is the author of SB 2029.
- SB 2111 (authored by Senator David Jordan) and SB 2142 (authored by Senator Briggs Hopson) both require compulsory school attendance for kindergarten-age children.
- SB 2255 authorizes students to be exempt from school attendance vaccination requirements if their parents object to such vaccinations on parental, philosophical or religious grounds. Senator Angela Hill is the author of SB 2255.
There are a number of pay raise bills – for both teachers, as well as assistant teachers – in both the House and the Senate, but the leadership’s pay raise bill has not been filed.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves spoke at Monday’s Stennis Capitol Press Forum. A large portion of his comments centered on improvements to education during his time in office, with him specifically mentioning students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Reeves shared that a teacher pay raise is a legislative priority. He also expressed his ongoing support for expanding school choice options.
Governor Bryant delivered his final State of the State address Tuesday. While calling for legislators to pass a teacher pay raise, Governor Bryant touted the results of the Literacy Based Promotion Act (i.e., Third Grade Gate) and heralded it as the “single most successful reform to public education in Mississippi history.” He also encouraged legislators to approve a school safety program that is the result of a task force’s work this past year.
Legislators concluded their work for the week earlier today and headed home. Both the House and the Senate will convene at 4:00 p.m. Monday.