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Senate passes House's education bill; includes charter schools

JACKSON — In their latest plan to improve Mississippi public schools, state senators are offering a compromise on requirements to become a teacher and doing away with a proposal to make it easier for the state to take over troubled schools.

The Senate voted 28-23 to approve its version of House Bill 890.

It includes the latest Senate version of charter schools, an increase in standards to enter teacher preparation and a call to flunk third graders who can’t read.

The proposals appear headed for conference with the House, although it’s not clear if the chambers will work on the combined bill, or less extensive bills that are still alive and contain individual proposals.

Before the bill passed, Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, an Oxford Republican, stripped a provision calling for the state to take over any F-rated school that doesn’t reach a C rating after two years.

Tollison also softened requirements for students who want to become teachers. The original bill required them to score at least 21 on the ACT college test and a 3.0 GPA on earlier college courses.

Tollison’s amended version calls for 60 percent of teacher preparation applicants to meet that bar by 2015-2016. The level would rise to 70 percent by 2016-2017 and 80 percent by 2017-2018.

The requirements would stay at 80 percent, allowing teacher programs to always admit 20 percent of students who don’t reach the standards proposed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

On Monday, the House amended another version of the teacher requirements to drop the ACT altogether.

Tollison dropped a plan pushed by the state Department of Education to deal with failing schools. It would have required the state to take over any F-rated school that doesn’t reach a C rating after two years, or any F-rated school that improves to C and then ever drops back to D or F. He said the proposal needed more study.

Yesterday’s Senate measure also contained the latest Senate proposal on charter schools. It would give a C-rated district a veto over such alternative public schools until 2016, while keeping a permanent veto for districts rated A and B. An independent authorizing board could approve no more than 15 charters per year and would have to give priority to charter proposals from historically black universities.

House leaders, for their part, have proposed their own compromise which would let students cross district lines to enroll in charter schools, but would maintain a veto for C-rated school districts and ban for-profit organizations from managing nonprofit charter schools.

Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, all Republicans, are each pushing packages of educational changes this year.



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