Laurie Smith: Column: Education reforms working for Mississippi

The 2016 session expanded on the foundation laid in 2013. Highlights include:

•The charter school law expanded the areas for charter schools to open, allowing more families to have school choices.
•The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs program, which establishes scholarships for special needs students’ educational expenses, was also revised to include students with an active individual education plan established within the past five years. This will expand families’ school choice.
•Four school districts were legislatively consolidated. The first and foremost implication is that Mississippi schools will have cost savings that provide for more efficient and higher-quality education.
•A new law requires district superintendents to be appointed, which will allow districts to recruit the best and most qualified leaders.
•The Literacy-Based Promotion Act was revised to include an even more intensive reading instruction intervention, raising the bar for third-grade reading proficiency.
•House Bill 207 continues to simplify the way National Board Certified Teachers can be reimbursed for the certification process and creates a pilot program offering an additional $4,000 stipend to certified teachers who teach in specific areas of the state.
•Senate Bill 2808 created the Mississippi Works Fund. It will allot approximately $50 million to meet the training needs of new jobs created in the state.

Laurie J. Smith is the education and workforce policy adviser for Gov. Phil Bryant.

Clarion Ledger