Mississippi’s legislators have proposed dozens of bills this year aimed at improving education in the state. These legislative ideas range from small curriculum additions and other changes to large pilot programs and even to universal preschool. Here’s a look at some of the education bills that will be discussed during the current session.
- Funding for English Language Learners: House Bill 8 would increase funding to districts in which 20 percent of enrolled students are English language learners. Nationwide, the population of ELL students has increased in recent years. During the 2016-17 school year, the achievement gap in English between English language learners and native English speakers grew, according to state data.
- Computer science curriculum: Senate Bill 2096 would direct the state Board of Education to develop a mandatory K-12 computer science curriculum, to include instruction on topics like coding and computer programming.
- Universal preschool: House Bill 340 would establish a voluntary universal prekindergarten program that would be available to all children who are at least 4-years-old. Mississippi’s current pre-K program was ranked at the top in terms of quality by the National Institute for Early Education, but served only 4 percent of 4-year-olds in 2016.
- Assistant teacher salary: Senate Bill 2203 would increase the minimum salary for Mississippi’s assistant teachers from $12,500 to $16,500. Nationwide, the median salary for assistant teachers is $25,410.
- Alternate discipline: House Bill 68 would allow students with no disciplinary record to avoid suspension and expulsion for poor conduct by participating in at least 40 hours of community service.
- School calendar flexibility: House Bill 126 would establish a Trimester School Pilot Program that would involve up to 12 school districts during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Nationwide, schools that have adopted this model say it offers students increased course flexibility, allowing them to take more classes each year than they could when following a semester schedule. At the same time, preparation time for teachers increases because they are teaching more classes.
- Remedial education: House Bill 198 would prohibit public funding of remedial education at the postsecondary level, and would instead require that remediation be provided before a student graduates high school. Data collected by The Hechinger Report as part of a year-long project found more than 42 percent of students who arrived at the state’s community colleges in 2014, and more than 17 percent of new students and transfers at Mississippi’s four-year public universities, required at least one remedial course. In 2013, a Mississippi legislator proposed making public school districts pay the cost of remedial courses for their graduates.
- Home Economics Curriculum: House Bill 16, authored by Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, would require the state Board of Education to develop a home economics curriculum and would require all school districts to provide home economics instruction. Topics would include cooking, child development, and sewing.