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Education In Legislature’s Focus Ahead of Deadline

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Feb 2014 05:59pm | comments

Mississippi lawmakers are again taking a close look at how to run the state's schools. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the legislature appears to be moving toward more school district consolidation....

The Mississippi Senate wants to consolidate the Greenwood and Leflore County school districts.

LeFlore County was recently taken over by the state.

That's a move  that Senate education Committee chair Gray Tollison of Oxford supports.

He says it has been failing students for years and its time for a change.

"Reinvigorate this school district and make sure that we are not failing out students. Really we are robbing our children of their future is what was going on there," Tollison said.

This proposed consolidation is the first of several that the legislature might pursue...including merging Carroll-Montgomery-and-Winona counties into one district and Claiborne and Jefferson counties into one.

In the House, lawmakers rejected a plan to create a separate statewide school district in Mississippi to take over individual failing schools.

Opponents, like Representative Ed Blackmon of Canton warned from the floor about the sweeping powers of what some called a 'super district'.

"This is not the way to solve this problem in Mississippi. By guesswork, speculation and soothsaying. This bill needs to go back and be buried never to see the light again," Blackmon said.

The house sent it back to committee on a 60-to-55 vote, likely killing it.

The bill was intended to replace a so-called New Start law that will take effect this fall.

Education Committee chair John Moore of Brandon says the law would require the state department of education to fire every teacher in an F-rate school.

"And if you have F schools in your district and you vote to recommit this bill, you are voting to fire every teacher in that school. You just remember that when you vote," Moore said.

The firings are slated to happen this September, in the middle of the school year.

A similar bill  to establish a statewide district remains pending in the Senate.

Today is the deadline for lawmakers to pass bills out of their own chamber or they die.

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