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Mississippi’s legislative session started less than a week ago but the first pieces of legislation have already been submitted and referred to committees. They include several bills focused on education in the Magnolia state. It’s anticipated that a teacher pay raise and limits on student testing will be major topics this year, while school funding is not expected to get the attention it has received in previous years. Gov. Phil Bryant has also recommended a $1 million increase for the Department of Mental Health for more community-based services. Such programs are needed for youth in the state; mental health needs, left untreated, can have an impact on a child’s education.

Here’s a look at some of the first education bills proposed during the start of this year’s legislative session:

SB 2021, proposed by Republican Sen. Angela Burks Hill, allows certain individuals to receive an exemption from teacher certification qualifications, including those who enter classrooms through a nontraditional teaching route.

• High school graduates and GED applicants would have to pass at least 60 percent of the civics portion of the naturalization test used by federal immigration officials under SB 2033, which was proposed by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, a Republican. They would be permitted to retake the test until they receive a passing score, at which point they would be allowed to graduate or obtain their GED.

B. 2027, also proposed by Sen. Blackwell, would provide state funding to reimburse districts for the cost of employing school resource officers.

• School board members would be required to have at minimum an associate degree from an accredited junior or community college or a minimum of 60 credit hours and a 2.0 GPA from a junior or community college or four-year college, under B. 2034. The bill would amend section 37-7-306 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 which currently requires school board members to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

B. 2055 would allow school districts that have a state rating of A, B, or C to operate under the same guidelines as charter schools, meaning they would be exempt from “any rule, regulation, policy or procedure adopted by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education unless otherwise required by the local school board,” although they would remain subject to all state, national, and local laws.

• Students would be allowed to carry and use sunscreen at school without permission from a parent or physician under B. 2044.

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