JACKSON — Mississippi lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to eliminate the election of school superintendents — an issue that has been debated for many years.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would let 55 elected superintendents serve the four years of their current term. After that, the local school boards would hire each district’s top administrator. The state has 144 school districts.
The Senate voted 40-9 for Senate Bill 2438 which now moves to the House for more work.
Now, superintendents from city districts are appointed, but most county district superintendents are elected every four years. That includes four of Mississippi’s five largest districts — DeSoto County, Rankin County, Madison County and Harrison County.
DeSoto Superintendent Cory Uselton was elected to his first term in November.
“There may be some parts of the state where appointed superintendents are needed, but elections for superintendent of education have always worked well in DeSoto County,” Uselton said in a statement to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1WggGP6 ). “Voters told me (last) summer that they liked having a voice in selecting their superintendent.”
Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said Thursday that voters would still have a voice in choosing a superintendent through elected school boards. A separate bill that will be considered this year proposes changing all school boards to elected positions. In some districts, board members are appointed.
Appointing superintendents would open the jobs to larger pools of candidates rather than limiting choices to people who live within a district, Tollison said. He also said seven of the last 10 school districts taken over by the state have had elected superintendents.
“I think it’s easier for appointed superintendents to make tough decisions,” Tollison said.
Republican leaders say they hope an increased GOP majority in the House will improve chances of an elected superintendents’ bill passing this year. Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Board of Education and the Mississippi School Boards Association are among those supporting the change.
Senators voting against the bill Thursday were Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton; Nickey Browning, R-Pontotoc; Angela Hill, R-Picayune; Russell Jolly, R-Houston; Chris Massey, R-Nesbit; Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville; Bill Stone, D-Holly Springs; Angela Turner, D-West Point; and J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont.
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