Three Critical Bills Need to Move Forward

Thank you, thank you for your faithful work on behalf of Mississippi children! 

Tomorrow is a critical day for three important education bills that are still pending: the reading gate, assistant teacher pay-raise, and average daily membership bills.

HB 745 holds harmless this year’s third-graders for the first-year results of a new high-stakes reading test. Without this bill, thousands of Mississippi third-graders will be held back based solely on a standardized test that has never before been administered, regardless of how they have performed on other assessments or coursework throughout the year. 

This bill does not do away with the reading gate, it simply gives the MDE one year to work out any bugs and ensure that there are no unintended consequences associated with this high-stakes test, the passing score for which can’t even be set until after the children take it the first time. The bill says that, for this year only, low-scoring students may be allowed to progress to the fourth grade but must be given the intensive interventions they need to become proficient readers. 

The amended bill passed with a majority vote of the House this week, but Education Chairman John Moore held the bill on a motion to reconsider. If he does not bring the bill back up tomorrow (the deadline to dispose of motions to reconsider), the bill will die, and thousands of third graders who would not otherwise be retained will be held back. The leadership needs to hear from you.

Tell Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn to
to allow children who do not meet the assessment cut score to progress to the fourth grade and provide them the intensive remediation they need to become proficient readers.

Chairman John Moore   Personal: 601.946.5833   Capitol: 601.359.3330

Speaker Philip Gunn   Personal: 601.924.8438   Capitol: 601.359.3300

The Mississippi Department of Education estimates that nearly 20 percent of third graders will fail the new assessment, based upon last year’s MCT2 scores. A survey of school districts by the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents reveals that the number of students retained based upon the assessment could be closer to 30 percent.

As one school board member said, “This year’s little third-graders are being treated like guinea pigs. We don’t know the cut scores, our teachers haven’t seen this test, we’ve not received funding to train our teachers, and parents are worried.” 

The word is that the other two bills that remain on the Motion to Reconsider calendar are more likely to be passed on to the Senate tomorrow morning: the assistant teacher pay-raise and average daily membership bills (see more on these below). Their fate, too, rests with Education Chair John Moore. Please ask him to table the motion to reconsider on HB 582 and HB 471 so that they can move forward.

See below the outcomes of the bills we are tracking

Today was the last day for the House and Senate to take initial action on the bills that originated in their own chambers. Here are the results of the bills we have been following:

HB 156 – Separates the state and federal accountability models and revises the name of the state standards. Passed the House. See vote.

HB 394 – Provides state-funded vouchers for children with special needs to pay tuition at unaccountable private academies that are not required to offer special services or accommodations. Died on calendar.

HB 449 – Prohibits school personnel from contacting legislators during the school day and prohibits school board members and superintendents from political activity on school or personal time or property, including influencing legislators on education policy. Carries a $10,000 fine. Died on calendar.

HB 471 – Provides for use of Average Daily Membership (enrollment) rather than Average Daily Attendance to determine MAEP funding. Requires that schools whose attendance is less than 94.5% of reported enrollment, based upon an auditor count, be funded based on Average Daily Attendance. Passed the House.  See vote. Held on a motion to reconsider. Ask Chairman Moore to table the motion to reconsider and let the bill move forward.

HB 479 – Reduces funding for the at-risk portion of the MAEP by basing it on standardized test scores rather than poverty. Died on calendar.

HB 488 – Uses state funding to pay tuition for dyslexia therapists to get training and teach in private special purpose schools. Passed the House. See vote.

HB 582 – Increases the minimum annual salary paid to assistant teachers by $2,500 to a minimum salary of $15,000 per year. Passed the House. See vote. Held on a motion to reconsider. Ask Chairman Moore to table the motion to reconsider and let the bill move forward.

HB 745 – Gives this year’s third-graders a reprieve from the consequences of a new high-stakes reading test the first time it is administered, and provides low-scoring students intensive remediation to bring them to reading proficiency. Passed the House. See amendment vote. Held by Chairman Moore on a motion to reconsider. Ask Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn to table the motion to reconsider and let the amended bill move forward as passed by the House.

HB 814 – Special Education Improvement Act of 2015. Died on calendar.

SB 2302 – Gives additional $5,000 supplement to National Board Certified Teachers and Teaching Fellows program participants who teach in geographic critical shortage areas. See vote.

SB 2329 – Allows home-schooled children to participate in extra-curricular activities in public schools without adhering to the same academic requirements public school students must meet. Defeated by Senate. See vote.

SB 2695 – Provides vouchers for children with special needs to pay tuition at private schools that are not required to provide special education services. See amendment vote. See voucher bill vote.

Click here to get more information about these bills.

They will now swap the bills that passed; the House will consider the Senate bills and the Senate will consider those that began in the House.

We are going to need your help in this next round, too!

I know you are tired and disgusted – my email inbox is smoking from the blazing emails I have received decrying the inexcusable actions and comments of some of our elected officials regarding public education. Others, though, have been real heroes for us, amending bills and fighting for our public schools. They deserve our thanks and accolades.

Folks, if you don’t like the way you are being represented in Jackson, you have two weeks left to find people to run for those seats in the coming election. It won’t matter how angry you are at our elected officials if you don’t have a better choice on the ballot in November. Remember that you can find like-minded education supporters through Facebook and Twitter: #All4PublicEd!

Here’s the good news: there are tens of thousands of us taking a stand for our kids and their schools. Even in this hostile environment, we are winning some important victories for our children. And we have more wins ahead of us this session. Tell everyone you know to join our cause, and let’s get this done for our kids! 

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