JACKSON, Mississippi — Requirements for the Mississippi Department of Education to take over dozens of struggling schools would be eased under a proposal moving forward in the Legislature.
The state Senate approved an amended version of House Bill 455 Tuesday, sending it back to the House for more work.
Today, the state would be required to take over as many as 52 failing schools if they rated "F'' at the end of this school year, failing for the third year in a row.
The department says that under current law, it can't take over single schools, only whole districts through the conservatorship process. State officials said they didn't have the capacity to take over what could be a large number of the state's 151 districts.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, says the bill enables the department to seize individual schools. It makes such takeovers optional, but would allow the state to take control after two years of "F'' ratings.
The state would start counting after the 2014-2015 school year, letting the schools currently threatened with takeover have more time.
"This would hit the restart button on these schools, give them a little more opportunity to improve," Tollison said.
Tollison said he hoped that by allowing the state to take over individual schools, it would prevent the need to take over entire districts. That whole-district takeover process would not be affected by the bill. Any school that rated "C'' for two years would be returned to local control.
Earlier this year, House lawmakers rejected a different proposal to create a separate school board to take over failing schools consisting of three appointees by the governor, three by the lieutenant governor and one by the state superintendent of education.
The measure also allows conservators to immediately fire any employee of a school district that the state takes over, without giving the employee a chance for a due process hearing. State officials have said they found far too many employees when they seized control of the Leflore County school district last year, but have had to retain those employees until the end of their contracts at the end of the school year.
Finally, the bill would also remove a requirement that the head of the state charter school board also be a lawyer.
Online: House Bill 455
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