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January 22, 2021
The Legislative Report
The Mississippi Legislature continued with their third week of the 2021 legislative session. Legislators were hard at work to submit their bills as Monday was the deadline for the introduction of general bills and constitutional amendments. Both chambers now have hundreds of bills to research and consider before narrowing it down to those bills which will become the law in Mississippi. SB 2001, which is the teacher pay raise bill, was brought to the Senate floor for final passage on Thursday. The bill passed by unanimous vote of the Senate and will now travel to the House.

The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday to discuss three bills which will impact both new teachers who are straight out of college and certain training for all teachers:

  • SB 2269 involves trauma informed practices training for school districts across Mississippi. This bill seeks to address the heightened level of trauma in public schools by training district teachers and requiring a school counselor in every school as funds become available. No additional requirements would be placed on teachers, as school counselors would train teachers on how to identify and report certain issues. An amendment was made by the committee to change the effective date of the bill to July 1, 2021 as opposed to it taking effect upon passage. The committee then voted to lay the bill on the table subject to call of the chair in order to allow the members more time to review and research the bill.

  • SB 2305 involves the teacher loan repayment program which is designed to address the teacher shortage issue in the state. Currently, there are multiple repayment programs within Mississippi law, most of which are either underfunded or not funded at all. This bill seeks to consolidate those programs into one repayment program in order to encourage those teachers who are right out of college and need help repaying their student loans. The bill would create a three year commitment that would incentivize teachers to remain teaching in Mississippi in order to receive a repayment check at the end of each year from the state. Teachers who teach in a critical needs area would be eligible for a higher level of repayment. The bill passed and it now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • SB 2307 involves the Dyslexia Awareness Training Program. This bill seeks to clear up questions around dyslexia requirements in the state and would bring those requirements under Mississippi law closer to what is already required under federal law. If a student’s diagnosis does not result in an IDEA eligibility determination, the district must determine if the student is eligible for a 504 Plan. The committee voted to pass the bill and now it will head to the full Senate for approval.

The House Education Committee is set to have their first meeting sometime before the February 2 committee deadline. Due to COVID-19, many committees are moving to online meetings in order to consider bills.
Mississippi Department of Education
The Mississippi State Board of Education had their monthly meeting on Thursday where they voted on a variety of different topics that will impact Mississippi schools. The SBE voted to suspend three statewide policies regarding assessment and accountability. The Board hopes that by making these adjustments, it will help ease the ongoing impact of COVID-19. The policy suspension summaries are listed below:

  • Suspension of the A-F Accountability Grades for Districts School districts will not be assigned an A-F letter grade for the 2020-21 school year, as MDE does not have sufficient data to calculate grades due to COVID-19. This means that school districts will retain their most recent letter grades earned from the 2018-19 school year.

  • 3rd Grade Reading Gate — Current 3rd grade students will not be required to pass the 3rd Grade Reading and Language Arts assessment in order to be promoted to the 4th grade. Students will still be required to take the assessment, but will be passed on as long as they meet all other requirements for advancement. These children will be identified and will be provided additional resources once they move on from the 3rd grade.

  • End-of-Course Assessments — High school students in the 2020-21 school year will not be required to have a passing score on end-of-course assessments in order to meet high school graduation requirements. As with the 3rd grade assessment, high school students must still take the end-of-course assessments and must still pass all other requirements in order to graduate.

For full details and other policy suspensions, click here to view the SBE meeting back-up material.
Recent Bills
Currently, there are 170 bills referred to the House Education Committee and 82 bills referred to the Senate Education Committee. Two of those bills being HB 35 which would revise the definition of a compulsory school age child to include those who have not reached the age of eighteen years on or before September 1 of the calendar year and HB 316 which would provide for the Mississippi compulsory school attendance law to be fully applicable to kindergarten age children as well. Other notable bills include SB 2309 which would discontinue the use of subject area tests as a requirement to receive a high school diploma and SB 2301 which would increase the annual salaries for assistant teachers.

To view the bills that have been assigned to the House Education Committee, click here.

To view the bills that have been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, click here.
The current deadlines for legislation are:

  • Tuesday, February 2, 2021 — Committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments originating in own house

  • Thursday, February 11, 2021 — Original floor action on general bills and constitutional amendments originating in own house

  • Friday, February 12, 2021 — Deadline for reconsideration and passage of general bills and constitutional amendments originating in own house.
Day at the Capitol
MSBA’s Day at the Capitol, originally scheduled for March 2, 2021, has been postponed until further notice.
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austin gilbert
Austin Gilbert
MSBA Policy Manager