House OKs bill for appointed superintendents

March 14, 2013 9:55:19 AM

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JACKSON -- The Mississippi House changed its mind Wednesday and advanced a bill that could lead to more appointed, rather than elected, school superintendents. 

 

The House had rejected Senate Bill 2911 on a 52-65 vote Monday. 

 

It reconsidered the bill Wednesday, passing it 62-55. The bill returns to the Senate, which could either send it to the governor or seek final negotiations with the House. 

 

House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, said he thinks some members were confused when they opposed the bill Monday, and he believes that confusion was cleared up by the second vote. 

 

"It's moving on through the process," Moore said. 

 

As the bill stands now, people in districts with appointed superintendents would vote on whether to continue the practice. 

 

Superintendents are elected in 62 Mississippi school districts and appointed in 89. 

 

Each superintendent is required to have a master's degree, but some lawmakers pointed out that local school board members -- who'd make the appointment -- aren't required to have a college degree. 

 

Moore said lawmakers could study ways to improve the quality of local school boards, and return with recommendations, possibly next year. 

 

Opponents say electing superintendents gives local residents a direct voice in how schools are run. Among the most vocal critics of the bill is Rep. Forrest Hamilton, R-Olive Branch, whose district is in DeSoto County. It has the state's largest and fastest-growing school district, and has an elected superintendent. 

 

During a brief debate Wednesday, Moore said some districts have trouble finding anyone qualified to become superintendent. Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, asked if Moore knew how many districts have faced that situation. 

 

Moore said he didn't have numbers. That prompted Baria to ask whether the House was being asked to vote on the bill without having full information about it. 

 

"This body makes basically uninformed votes on a lot of things," Moore replied.