House Education Committee pass bills to reduce school days

Published 12:51 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

By Larrison Campbell

Mississippi Today

The House Education Committee on Thursday passed a slew of bills, including two that would reduce the number of days in the school year and the number of days schools can administer tests.

Email newsletter signup

Committees are busy working to pass bills ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline for bills to pass out of committee and go to the House floor for a possible vote.

House Bill 866 would limit the number of days of state testing to three. Currently, the Mississippi Department of Education requires no more than three days for any required test. It would also limit school districts’ benchmark assessments to no more than 20 days.

Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs, presented the bill to the committee.

“We’ve all been told about standardized tests being administered between 40 and 60 days, (and there are) a lot of upset teachers and parents,” Guice said. “(There are) people telling us about having to teach to the test and things of that nature. This is an effort to curtail that to limit it to 20 days.”

House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, clarified that there has been a misconception that the state is responsible for all testing days.

“All of us receive complaints from teachers and superintendents about all the testing days when in fact, testing days are done by the district itself, yet they’ve blamed the state,” Moore said.

The committee then passed House Bill 293, authored by Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, which reduces the number of days in the school year from 180 to 170.

“What we just did with the reduction of testing days to 23 allows for … more instructional days,” Guice said. “We can reduce the school year … while still allowing teachers more instructional time.”

Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes offered a failed amendment to the bill that would have made kindergarten compulsory. In Mississippi, children are not required by law to be in school until they are 6 years old. All school districts, however, are required to offer kindergarten.

“We need to make sure we don’t allow parents to just keep their kids out and they show up in 1st grade behind, causing more teachers to give more attention to them,” Williams-Barnes said.

“It’s a very small percentage, but I think we need to make sure our 5-year-olds are in school,” she said.

The amendment failed 8-16 after Guice said he opposed the amendment because he didn’t know what effect it would have on the main purpose of the bill — to reduce the number of school days.

The committee also passed:

• HB 1050, to allow any remaining money from a student’s Educational Scholarship Account to roll over to the next year

• HB 1037, to require school districts to provide additional resources for students who need but cannot afford testing for dyslexia

• HB 499, to provide for the removal of appointed school board members for certain reasons

• HB509, to require the Department of Public Safety to include proper etiquette after getting pulled over by law enforcement in its driver’s education courses.

That bill passed the House Transportation Committee last week.