Legislative Update (1/25/19)
Friday, January 25, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
Although they did not meet this week, both the House Education Committee and the Senate Education Committee will most likely meet next week, as Tuesday, February 5, is the deadline for committees to pass general bills originating in their chamber. As of yesterday afternoon, 71 bills had been referred to the Senate Education Committee and 167 were referred to House Education. We are monitoring a number of voucher bills, including:
- SB 2029 and HB 858 are companion bills which means they basically do the same thing. Both bills remove the requirement that dyslexia scholarships be used only at special purpose schools and allow the scholarships to be used at any private school, including out-of-state schools. The bills also eliminate the current requirement that each school submit its annual audit to the State Board of Education. Senator Kevin Blackwell requested SB 2029 and it has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. Representative Dana Criswell requested HB 858 which has been referred to the House Education Committee.
- SB 2250 authorizes an income tax credit for expenditures related to private schools or homeschooling in Mississippi, including, but not limited to, private school tuition, textbooks, curriculum, and classroom supplies. Senator Angela Hill requested SB 2250. It has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
- HB 920 amends the definition of a student eligible for a SPED voucher to include any student who has had a Section 504 Plan within the past five years. HB 920 was requested by Representative Lynn Weathersby and has been referred to the House Education Committee.
Governor Bryant declared this week as School Choice Week in Mississippi. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn both spoke in support of school choice at a rally for the issue on Tuesday, with Reeves calling for more funding for the program that allows parents to use public tax dollars to send their children to private schools. As MPE shared in December, a recent report by the Legislative PEER Committee found no need for additional funding, as MDE only disbursed 70% ($3.9 million) of available funding in fiscal years 2017-2018, while 30% ($1.7 million) lapsed and was returned to the State Treasury.
Rep. Tom Miles and Rep. Jay Hughes hosted a public forum on state testing this past Monday. Several members of MPE testified during the forum, including MPE District 6 Director Chris Chism. A bi-partisan group of legislators has introduced several testing bills, including:
- HB 993 discontinues end-of-course subject area tests and requires the administration of the ACT to determine proficiency.
- HB 994 eliminates passage of end-of-course assessments as a condition of graduation.
- HB 995 discontinues the U.S. History test.
Legislators concluded their work for the week yesterday and will return to the capitol Monday afternoon.