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Education Committees Rush To Beat Deadline

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 31 Jan 2013 05:36pm | comments

The Mississippi house and senate education committees are passing a raft of education reform legislation ahead of a deadline early next week. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the push is part of efforts by Republicans to focus the session on education.

The house and senate education committees are working feverishly to pass a long list of education reform bills ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

The bills cover a wide range of issues including holding back students who cannot read at a third grade level.

Senator Angela Hill of Picayune is the author of the senate version of that bill.

"Generally you see studies that some of these students are the ones that get in trouble later on. Because they get to high school and they are frustrated because they are so far behind their peers. We are doing a disservice to our children when we let them pass third grade and they cannot read," Hill said.

The committees are also looking at ways of extending the state's compulsory education laws to kindergarten.

Senate education committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford says under current rules there is no way to retain a student that is not ready to enter elementary school.

"Where as in first grade and every grade after that, if a teacher wants to retain that child they can be retained. So it gives a little more power to the kindergarten teacher to retain that child. And in conjunction with the third grade reading bill we want to working on that child from day one in kindergarten," Tollison said.

Continuing a trend that began last session, the committees are looking to consolidate the Starkville and Oktibbeha County schools district, which has twice been taken over by the state.

Representative Tyrone Ellis of Starkville is not on the education committee but represents the district and supports the consolidation.

"If you are going to have a district, you need a minimum of 2-thousand students. Oktibbeha County has something in the neighborhood of 800 students. You cannot mathematically have a thriving district like that. It just won't happen," Ellis said.

The house committee also approved a bill that would provide scholarships to 64-thousand Mississippi kids with learning disabilities to attend a public or private school of their choice.

Democrats on the committees have raised concerns that money for these programs will not be new appropriations, but will instead draw on money intended for public schools.




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