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House GOP Eyes Bigger Education Reform Agenda

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 26 Jan 2013 03:55pm | comments

Both chambers of the Mississippi legislature could again be debating charter schools in Mississippi this week. But, as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, Republicans in the house say their education reform goals go far beyond charter schools.

Leading Republicans in the House say they want to use the momentum of passing a charter school bill for the first time to drive through more education related reforms.

House Education committee chair John Moore of Brandon is planning a series of hearings this week to examine changes such appointed superintendents, capturing more qualified teachers, and retaining students that can't read at a third grade level.

"And at the end of the day if four or five of the major components actually make it to the floor and make it to the senate and become law, I will consider it a highly successful session," Moore said.

Republicans are also introducing a pre-K initiative...Representative Toby Barker of Hattiesburg has filed a bill to provide a 2-thousand dollar matching grant to send kids to pre-K education.

"We can send assistance for children who need pre-K service sinto the local community where there are already many councils who deal in early childhood education. And also encourage the creation of those at the local level," Barker said.

The appropriation committee could also get involved.

Committee Chairman Herb Frierson of Poplarville has set a hearing for tomorrow to examine potential changes to the state's education funding formula, such as recalculating it every year instead of every four years.

"If you re-ran it in 2013 full funding would be able 100-million dollars less than what it is now," Frierson said.

Frierson also suggested standardizing how Mississippi schools count their daily attendance.

However, Democrats like Willie Perkins of Greenwood, are quick to point out the 300-million dollar shortfall in the education funding formula that they believe plays a key role in Mississippi's under performing schools.

"We have refused to fully fund MAEP except for two years and it just happened to be election years when we did that. Our problem is funding what we have," Perkins said.

Still, some democrats have signaled a willingness to work with Republicans.

Six Democrats voted for the charter school bill and were key to its passage.

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