Looking for legislators' contact information? Click here to find phone numbers, email addresses, and social media information for all of the legislators who represent your school district.
To see the status of our priority bills from the 2015 Legislative Session, click here.
Vouchers, Graduation Requirements, and Common Core
Last week, Governor Bryant signed SB 2695, the voucher bill that allows taxpayer dollars to be used to pay tuition for children with special needs to attend private academies and for-profit schools. The governor has not yet signed SB 2161, the bill that establishes a commission to make recommendations about Mississippi's education standards. In other news, the State Board of Education announced changes to high school graduation requirements, including removing the requirement that students pass subject area tests. Read more about all of these issues here.
Your School District's Funding Shortage for 2015-2016, Cumulative Losses Since FY 2009
MDE has released the state funding allocations for each school district for the 2015-2016 school year. Click here to see your district's shortage for the coming year and your district's total losses since FY 2009. The last time the MAEP was fully funded (as required by state law) was the 2007-2008 school year. Read more.
Session Ends, Status of Bills
The 2015 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature has ended. The Senate completed its work yesterday and the House did so this morning. Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of Mississippi children. You have been amazing! Click here to see an update on the legislation we tracked during the session.
Update from the Capitol
The House and Senate have taken final action on some of the bills we have been watching; others remain on the calendar. The deadline for an initial vote is tomorrow. The conference report for SB 2300, which allows county-wide open enrollment for charter schools, has not been acted on by either chamber. Also awaiting action is the conference report for the budget transfer bill, which could be used to add MAEP funding. Read more here.
Calls Needed on Open Enrollment for Charter Schools, Another Tax Cut Effort
The conference report for SB 2300 now has a provision to allow students in any district, including those rated A, B, or C, to cross district lines within a county to attend a charter school in another school district. Funding would follow the child. Ask legislators to recommit SB 2300 so that the open enrollment provision can be removed. On another front, Lt. Governor Reeves indicated on Twitter late this afternoon that another tax cut effort may be in the works. Read more here.
Final Bills to be Decided Soon
We are in the final stretch of the 2015 Legislative Session. The deadline for initial conference reports to be filed on funding and revenue bills is tomorrow, but those first reports are sometimes sent back for more work. The deadline for conference reports to be filed on general bills is Monday. Legislators will be working at the Capitol over the weekend as they move toward the final deadlines. Read more here.
More State Funding Available
The Legislature learned today that it has more money available to spend on state services. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee met this afternoon and revised the revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2016. This revenue estimate is what next year's budget (state spending) is based upon. The committee acknowledged an additional $30-million that can now be added to the pool of money eligible to be budgeted for the coming year. Read more.
Something to Celebrate
Today, the tax-cut bill that would have eliminated $555-million from state coffers and made it nearly impossible ever to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) died in the House of Representatives, thanks to 52 representatives who chose children over tax cuts. Read more here.
52 House Members Choose School Funding Over Tax Cuts
The plan to eliminate $555-million from state coffers in corporate tax breaks was rejected today by 52 House members who put our children and their schools ahead of election-year politics. See that vote. But the bill is likely to come back up for another vote in the next day or two, and the leadership and corporate lobbyists are ramping up the pressure on public school champions. Read more.
Majority of Senate Chooses Tax Cuts Over School Funding
In today's debate over corporate tax breaks and adequate school funding, a majority of senators voted to eliminate $555-million in state revenue through tax cuts. Click here to see what your district stands to lose if the tax cut plan is adopted. Earlier in the day the Senate sent a bill to Governor Bryant that under-funds the MAEP by more than $200-million, claiming there is not enough revenue to provide schools more funding. Read more.
Senate Appropriations Passes Funding Bill With No Changes
The Senate Appropriations Committee took up the K-12 funding bill this afternoon. No amendments were offered and no changes were made to the bill. It will go to the Senate floor tomorrow morning. Please call your senator immediately and ask him or her to amend HB 1536 to fully fund the MAEP or send the bill to conference for further work. See details here.
Will Your Senator Stand Up for Public Schools This Week?
The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet this afternoon to consider the K-12 funding bill and the bill will go before the full Senate tomorrow. Ask committee members and your own senator to fully fund the MAEP. Read more here about how the lack of state funds for legislatively-mandated expenditures has left local school districts holding the bill and facing no-win choices regarding which programs to fund and which to cut.
K-12 Funding on Tap for Senate Appropriations Committee
The deadline for a Senate floor vote on the K-12 appropriations bill is Tuesday, March 17; the Senate Appropriations Committee must take up HB 1536 either tomorrow or Monday. Read more here about how much our children's schools already are under-funded and how much your district stands to lose next year if the MAEP is under-funded again. Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and your own senator to ask for full funding of the MAEP. Click here for more news from the Capitol today.
House Passes Teacher Assistant Pay Raise - Again!
Rep. Tracy Arnold offered, and the House passed, an amendment to SB 2300 that increases the minimum salary for teacher assistants from the current $12,500 to $15,000. SB 2300 is a charter school bill which was further amended to remove the provision that would have allowed local and state tax dollars to be transferred from a charter school in one part of the state to another. Please join me in thanking Rep. Arnold and the House for finding a way to bring the teacher assistant pay raise back before the Legislature! (The original bill that provided this raise died in the Senate earlier in the session.) SB 2300 will now be returned to the Senate where that body can concur with the changes made in the House or invite conference.
House Passes Voucher Bill
The House passed the voucher bill, SB 2695, on a vote of 65-51 this afternoon. Several amendments were offered that would have replaced vouchers with services designed to help all children with special needs, but those amendments were rejected. Read more, and see how your representative voted on the bill itself and the amendments, here.
More Help Needed on Vouchers
Your representatives need to hear from you! The voucher bill did not come up for a vote today; tomorrow is the deadline. The House will convene at 10:00 a.m. You can watch their proceedings here. A number of sources tell us that the House leadership and privatization forces are dialing up the pressure on representatives to vote for the voucher bill. Please let your reps know that, if they stand up for public schools, you will have their backs. Read more here.
Privatization Bills on Tap for Floor Votes
Privatization bills are expected to come up for floor votes in the House and Senate tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday. Learn the truth about Mississippi's low graduation rate among children with disabilities and why you should tell your legislators to vote no on bills that would privatize public education. Read more here.
Some Bad News, Some Good News
Today was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee. Senate and House committees passed bills to help privatizers and killed bills to help public school students and teachers. Among those killed was the pay raise for assistant teachers and the literacy bill that provides important exemptions for third-graders. Read more here.
Voucher Bill Headed to House Floor
The House Education Committee passed SB 2695 this afternoon as a strike-all amendment, replacing the original language of the Senate voucher bill with that of HB 394, the House voucher bill. Ask your representative to vote NO on SB 2695. Read more here.
Legislators Play High-stakes Politics with Children's Futures
The House passed a bill today that, if enacted, will ensure that our children will never receive adequate school resources. See your legislator's vote here. HB 1629 removes 30 percent of state general fund revenue by eliminating the entire state income tax, phased out over 15 years. It would cut $1.7-billion from the state budget, with a loss to K-12 of $663-million annually. Yesterday, the Senate passed its own tax-cut plan to eliminate $382-million from state coffers, mostly through corporate tax breaks. See that vote here. K-12's annual hit from the Senate tax cut would be about $150-million. Read more here.
What Your District Stands to Lose in Funding
How much will your school district be shortchanged if the MAEP is not fully funded? A lot. Click here to see an estimate of what your district could gain if the MAEP is fully funded, and what it could lose if it is not. While state leaders are unwilling to fund schools adequately, they are engaging in an election year game of one-upmanship over who can decimate our state's budget the most through tax cuts our state can ill afford.
Literacy Test Concerns Misrepresented
The concerns of parents, teachers, and advocates regarding the third-grade "reading gate" have been misrepresented in recent media coverage. The concern is not that children who can't read will be retained, it is that children who can read will be retained because, for any number of reasons, they miss the cut score on the one high-stakes test that will determine retention. The Florida law on which Mississippi's law is based does not make a high-stakes test the sole determinate for third-grade retention. Read more here about Florida's investment of state and federal funds in reading, including a $300-million federal Reading First grant and more than $1-billion in state funding allocated to districts from 2005 through the current year for reading instruction.
House Passes K-12 Funding Bill With $201M Shortfall for MAEP
Today, the House of Representatives passed the K-12 funding bill on a unanimous vote, with almost no debate. It provides an increase in MAEP funding over last year of $107-million, but leaves the MAEP $201-million short of full funding. About half of the $107-million increase is intended to cover the second phase of the well-deserved teacher pay raise and what we hope will be a pay raise for teacher assistants. Read more here.
Still Time to Contact Representatives; Ed Funding Debate Tomorrow
The House did not take up the funding bill today, so there is still time to make those calls! We are expecting that debate tomorrow shortly after the House convenes at 10 a.m. Click here to watch it online. Read more here.
Looking for contact information for your legislators? Find it for those who represent your school district here, and use social media to reach out to all elected leaders. Remember to include the hashtag #All4PubEd any time you tweet or post on Facebook.
House to Vote on K-12 Funding Bill that Shorts MAEP by $201M
The House is expected to vote this afternoon on the K-12 funding bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. Their plan is to underfund MAEP by $201-million for the 2015-2016 school year, despite having revenue available to fully fund our schools. Read more here.
Third-Grade Reading Gate, Assistant Teacher Pay-Raise Bills Move to Senate
Both the third-grade reading gate bill and the assistant teacher pay-raise bill were moved forward by the House today. Please thank Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn. The bills now will go to the Senate for consideration. Click here for more information about these and other bills we are tracking.
Tell Leadership to Move Critical Bills Forward
Tomorrow is a critical day for three important education bills that are still pending: the third-grade reading gate, assistant teacher pay-raise, and average daily membership bills. Tell Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn to table the motion to reconsider on HB 745, HB 582, and HB 471. Read more here about these bills and today's actions on other education bills in the House and Senate.
Amended Bill Would Hold 3rd Graders Harmless for First Year of New State Test
A bill that would hold Mississippi third-graders harmless for the first-year results of a new high-stakes reading test and delay retentions for one year could die without your help. A majority of the House supports the amended version of the bill that allows children who don't meet the (as of yet undetermined) cut score to progress to fourth grade while providing them the intensive remediation they need. Sources tell us that the leadership is likely to kill it. If the bill dies, thousands of third graders who would not otherwise be retained will be held back. Read more here.
HB 394 is About Privatizing Public Education
HB 394 could be voted on in the House any time before the midnight deadline on February 12. This is a voucher bill that purports to provide opportunities for children with special needs when, in fact, it is simply a bill intended to line the pockets of for-profit entities whose goal is to privatize public education. Read more here about vouchers for children with special needs. And read letters to legislators from Starkville and Jackson County parents of children with special needs - these parents oppose vouchers and want more resources for their public schools.
A Chance to Stop the Privatizers
Legislators have gone home for the weekend, and they need to hear from you. Read more here.
What Legislators Didn't Do for Children with Special Needs
Legislators had opportunities over the last few weeks to provide real help for children with special needs, but instead, chose to focus on legislation that provides our most vulnerable children no assurance of special education services at all. Read more here.
It's Getting Ugly at the Capitol
Our kids need your help. Well-funded privatization forces are gaining ground in their efforts to privatize Mississippi's public education system, a move that would hand state tax dollars to unaccountable for-profit, virtual, and private schools. Read more here.
Senate Ed Committee Passes Voucher Bill
This morning, the Senate Education Committee passed a voucher bill that, if enacted, would be a big step toward privatizing public education in Mississippi. It could go to the full Senate as early as tomorrow. Read more here.
HB 449 Aims to Silence Educators
HB 449, authored by House Education chairman John Moore of Rankin County, would make it a criminal offense for teachers to contact their legislators during the work day (pretty much the only time that legislators are at the Capitol) and for citizens to advocate for an issue they support on any school property. Read more here. For a complete analysis of HB 449, click here.
What are Their Plans for Public Education?
So many of you have emailed, called, and texted us to express your devotion to Mississippi kids and your outrage with legislators who last week put our children's education in jeopardy, voting to thwart public will with a legislative alternative to the people's school funding amendment. Many of you report that your legislators are in "justification mode" - quoting from their talking points about the alternative, while swearing to be ardent supporters of public schools and promising great things for this legislative session. We will be watching their votes and reporting the outcome to you. Votes on key bills will tell us if they've made good on their promises. Read more here about privatization bills and possible changes regarding school funding.
Senate Passes HCR 9 on Vote of 31-21
The Senate passed HCR 9, the legislative alternative to Initiative 42, on a 31 to 21* vote this afternoon, over the objections of the people they were elected to serve. You can see how your senator voted here. Click here to read a compilation of interesting tweets from today's Senate debate. Read more here about the vote and what we, the people, can do to ensure adequate funding for our children's education.
House Passes HCR 9 on Vote of 64-57
Despite the more than 200,000 Mississippians who signed the petition for Initiative 42, and despite the thousands of you who called, emailed, texted, tweeted, and otherwise asked your legislators to vote NO on any alternative amendment, 64 of them did exactly what you repeatedly asked them not to do. The House passed HCR 9, the legislative alternative to Initiative 42, on a 64 to 57 vote. You can see how your representative voted here.
Please join me in thanking the 57 representatives who stood up for our children and voted against the phony alternative designed to kill the people's school funding amendment. Read more here.
House Committee Passes Legislative Alternative to Initiative 42
This afternoon, the House Constitution Committee passed House Concurrent Resolution 9, the alternative amendment that is intended to derail the school funding amendment supported by 200,000 Mississippians. It is expected to come up for a floor vote in the House tomorrow at 10 a.m. Despite an overwhelming outcry from the public for the Legislature to keep its #HandsOff42, House members are under immense internal political pressure to vote for the alternative.
Ask your representative to vote NO on HCR 9, the alternate amendment.
Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770
Share the same message with Speaker Gunn: 601.359.3300
Click here to watch the debate live online at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Taxpayers Deserve Honest Answers
#HandsOff42 VIRTUAL RALLY was a Tremendous Success
#HandsOff42 VIRTUAL RALLY is Today
It's time for the #HandsOff42 VIRTUAL RALLY! Tell politicians to keep their hands off our school funding amendment and to vote NO on any legislative alternative to Initiative 42. Click here for all of the contact information you will need to reach elected officials by phone, email, text message, and social media.
The 2015 Legislative Session will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 6. As always, we will keep our members in the know about legislation that affects public schools and how their legislators vote on pertinent education bills. If you would like to receive email updates about your legislators' education votes and have not already signed up, click here to be added to our email list. For additional news updates, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Time to Rally for Adequate School Funding!
Tired of politicians running roughshod over public education? It's time to send them a message and stop their plan to kill the people's Better Schools, Better Jobs funding amendment. Join our #HandsOff42 VIRTUAL RALLY on Wednesday, January 7 without ever leaving home or work. Click here to learn how.