2016 Education Report Card Released
RIDGELAND, Miss.- Empower Mississippi released the 2016 Education Report Card today, grading every member of the legislature on key school choice and education reform votes from the past legislative session.
This year, 45 members in the House and 21 members in the Senate received an “A,” and a majority in both chambers received at least a “B.” The legislation that was graded in the 2016 Education Report Card includes appointed superintendents, charter school and Education Scholarship Account expansions, and the renewal of the Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship.
“Because of the actions of this legislature, I am proud to report that more parents than ever now have the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their child,” Grant Callen, president of Empower Mississippi said. “We still have a long way to go to ensure that every child in our state has access to a high quality education, but we are making strong progress. Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and Speaker Philip Gunn deserve a lot of credit for moving Mississippi in the right direction on education issues. We are on our way to creating for Mississippi a world class education system.”
By grading lawmakers on a scale of A-F, just like students and schools, Empower Mississippi’s Education Report Card gives a clear and comprehensive assessment of who is truly keeping the promise of a quality education in the Magnolia State.
Twenty members of the legislature, including 13 in the House and seven in the Senate were named to the Honor Roll, which recognizes key members who led on education issues this year.
In the Senate, the members were: Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Burton, Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, Senators Chris Caughman, Buck Clarke, Joey Fillingane, John Polk, and Michael Watson.
In the House, the members were: Speaker Philip Gunn, Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, Representatives Toby Barker, Joel Bomgar, Randy Boyd, Charles Busby, Larry Byrd, Angela Cockerham, Carolyn Crawford, Dana Criswell, Deborah Dixon, and Brad Touchstone.
Four bills were included in this year’s Report Card:
Charter Schools: Each chamber took three separate votes on legislation to expand charter schools in Mississippi. The initial House legislation, HB 1044, would have only allowed students in school districts rated “D” or “F” to cross district lines. Conversely, the first vote on SB 2161 in the Senate would have allowed any student in the state to cross district lines and would have permitted charter schools to open in school districts rated “C.” The compromise bill that ultimately passed, SB 2161, allows students in school districts rated “C,” “D,” or “F” to cross district lines to attend a charter school. Previously, students were not allowed to cross district lines to attend a charter school.
Appointed Superintendents: The legislature voted to make all school superintendents appointed by January 2019. Currently, 55 of the 140 superintendents are elected.
Education Scholarship Account: The legislature voted to expand eligibility for the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs program to any student who has received an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in the past five years. Currently, a student must have received an IEP in the past 18 months to be eligible.
Dyslexia Scholarship: The legislature voted to renew the Dyslexia Scholarship program which was set to expire on June 30 and remove the repealer on the legislation.