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.