The Mississippi Department of Education has released the scores from the state assessments Mississippi students took last spring. However, because the tests measured a set of standards that most districts did not teach, those results are fairly meaningless. The test scores from one district to the next do not represent an apples-to-apples comparison. Some districts have moved fully to the new, higher standards, meaning the course of study taught in their schools was not aligned at all to the state tests. Others are transitioning more slowly, using a blended model of old and new standards. Most districts saw a slight drop in test scores, as was expected. Read more here.
Those we elect to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are responsible for shaping and voting on the budgets that determine the federal funds that flow to each state, including the vital federal dollars that help fund our children's schools. Click here to see how much your district received in federal funding in the 2012-2013 school year. The current Senate and Congressional elections can have a big impact on the resources available to our schools. Your vote matters, both in the June 24 primary runoff and in the November 4 general election. Read more here.
Have you signed a petition yet? A group called Better Schools, Better Jobs is working to amend the state constitution to require gradual increases in MAEP funding, whenever revenue grows, until full funding is reached. Full funding would be mandated each year after that. More than 100,000 signatures on petitions will be required just to get the initiative on the ballot. If just 20 people in every school district were to collect 50 signatures each, that would yield 1,000 signatures per district, surpassing the total requirement. Parent volunteers are already working hard to gather signatures in many districts. To find out how you can get involved, read more here.
The first charter school application to be approved in Mississippi is for Reimagine Prep in Jackson. It plans to open in the fall of 2015 to serve 110 students in grade 5, gradually expanding to serve 440 students in grades 5-8 by 2018. The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board denied applications today for groups hoping to open charter schools in Columbus and Natchez. Read more here.
The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board is holding public hearings this week in three communities - Columbus, Jackson, and Natchez - where applicants hope to locate charter schools. Out of 12 original applicants, only three were approved to proceed to the interview stage of the application process; those interviews were held on May 8. The board will make final determinations on those three applications in June. In this week's public hearings, applicants will present their plans and members of the public will be allowed to make comments. See details here.
Despite impressive increases in state revenue for the last three years, Mississippi children are once again being denied the funding that state law says is needed to provide them even an adequate education for the next school year. Click here to see how much your district will receive and the amount by which your schools are underfunded. The claims by some lawmakers that they are doing the best they can have fallen flat. Reports by the Department of Revenue and the Legislative Budget Office make it clear that state revenue has been more than sufficient to provide our children the quality education they deserve; it is simply the political will that is lacking. Legislators have chosen to spend more than 86 percent of the increase in state revenue on something other than our kids' schools. Click here to read more.
Governor Bryant has signed into law HB 504 giving Mississippi teachers $2,500 in salary increases over the next two years. He has also signed HB 1476, the K-12 funding bill, which funds public schools $257-million below what is considered adequate for a "C" level education. Read more here.
After failing in the House of Representatives today on a vote of 57-63, the voucher bill died when the Senate adjourned sine die without taking up the bill. See the House vote here.
HB 765, the voucher bill, failed in the House of Representatives today on a vote of 57-63. The Speaker of the House had ruled that only a majority vote was required. Rep. John Moore held the bill on a motion to reconsider. The Senate has not yet taken up that conference report.
Click here to read a letter from a mom whose child could qualify for a voucher under HB 765. She writes beautifully about the realities surrounding this bill and the bigger picture for public education in Mississippi. She shared the letter with us today after sending it to Lt. Gov. Reeves, Speaker Gunn, and all legislators. Families As Allies, a family group that advocates on behalf of children with special needs, also has expressed opposition to this bill. See their reasons here.
Gov. Bryant late this afternoon signed SB 2571, repealing the School Start Date Act. Local school boards will be free once again to set their own school calendars. See the press release from the governor's office here.
Today, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee revised the revenue estimates for this year and next, increasing the funds available to appropriate by almost $250-million. Yesterday, a tweet revealed that the Florida lobbyists who pushed for-profit and virtual charters in Mississippi last year is backing the voucher bill being pushed here this year. Another group reported that the same voucher bill is popping up in other states in a nationwide push to privatize public education. Will your legislators vote to privatize and "profitize" Mississippi's public schools? Read more here.
Speaker Philip Gunn said in a radio interview that he counts funding for a teacher pay raise as going toward full funding of the MAEP. That's not how it works. The teacher pay raise is a promise to teachers. MAEP is a promise to our children. Both are important, and one does not replace the other. Schools need both. Read more here.
Today the Senate added $60-million to the MAEP funding bill, the House sent the teacher pay raise bill to conference, the Senate passed an amended version of a voucher bill, and the House let another voucher bill die on the calendar. Get the details here.
Today the Senate voted 26-24 to add $60-million to MAEP in the K-12 funding bill, HB 1476. Thanks to Sen. Hob Bryan for proposing the amendment to increase MAEP and to the other 25 senators who joined him to support it. See the vote report here.
Voucher bills are among those facing tomorrow's calendar deadline, TPC members report good news and frustrations from their conversations with legislators, and some House members take advantage of an opportunity to stand up for public schools. Read about those and more here.
The K-12 funding bill is on the Senate calendar and must be voted on by March 18; ask your legislators to amend the bill to add more funding to MAEP. Both special needs voucher bills are awaiting votes; ask legislators to vote NO on SB 2325 and HB 765. Click here for information from a Mississippi special needs advocacy group that has announced its opposition to the voucher bills, citing among its concerns the loss of IDEA protection for special needs children and the lack of oversight of private voucher schools.
Funding for Accommodations
Legislators will get another shot at increasing the MAEP funding in HB1476 when the bill is taken up for reconsideration. We expect that to happen on Monday, and we hear the amendment could pass. Your help is needed to ensure success. Read more here.
The House did not take up HB 1476 this afternoon, but will be in session again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. You can watch the live webcast of House proceedings here. If you have not already called your representative about this bill, please do so now. Ask your rep to vote to amend or recommit this bill to increase MAEP funding. Capitol switchboard: 601-359-3770. Also, please call Speaker Gunn at 601-359-3300 and ask him to support amending or recommitting HB 1476.
This morning, the House Appropriations Committee passed HB1476, the K-12 funding bill. The bill provides no increase in the MAEP beyond a $25-million allocation for the first half-year of a proposed teacher pay raise. Though state revenue has surpassed 2008 levels, House Bill 1476 funds schools almost $100-million below what they received in 2008. Click here to read more and to see how much your district has been underfunded in the last six years and what you stand to lose next year.
Of the 38 troublesome bills we warned of a few weeks ago, only 3 remain alive - that's real progress! One of the remaining three is not subject to today's deadline and hasn't been considered, and the other two - both voucher bills - have been amended to slow down their progression. Click here to read more.
Tomorrow is the deadline for the House and Senate to vote on bills originating in their own chambers. Voucher bills HB 765, SB 2325, and HB 831 remain on the calendars and could be voted on tomorrow. Please ask your legislators to vote NO on these bills. Read more here. Also today, HB 502, the alternative to the New Start School law, was defeated in the House on a motion to recommit. A similar bill is still alive in the Senate; read more about the legislation to address chronically failing schools here.
The House of Representatives passed a teacher pay raise this afternoon on a vote of 86-26. Read about the debate here. See a description of the pay raise bill here.
Three voucher bills have passed out of committee, two in the House and one in the Senate, and they are headed to the full chambers for votes. These bills divert taxpayer dollars intended for public schools to pay tuition at private schools with no accountability for the quality of education they provide. Read more here.
The House Education Committee this afternoon passed a bill to give teachers up to a $4,250 pay raise over four years. Read more here.
Numerous bills have been filed that address school funding changes, open enrollment (crossing district lines), vouchers, charter schools, school standards, and how school boards are selected. Most of these bills have not yet been taken up in committee; the deadline for committees to act on bills that originated in their own chambers is Tuesday, Feb. 4. If any of these bills make it out of committee and onto the calendar for a floor vote, your help will be needed to get them amended or defeated to ensure that our children's education is protected. See the bills here.
A number of voucher bills that are designed to divert taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools have been introduced this legislative session. None of these have been taken up so far, but any of them could be debated in committee in the next few days. The voucher bills are: HB 529, HB 562, HB 592, HB 765, SB 2209, SB 2280, SB 2325, SB 2595, SB 2596, SB 2639, and SB 2749. Click here to learn more about these bills, including who authored them and which are ALEC bills.