April 18, 2013 10:21:41 AM
FLOWOOD -- Gov. Phil Bryant continues to tout the potential of new education measures.
The Republican Bryant signed four bills into law Wednesday at Northwest Rankin High School, where he pledged last fall to seek many of the changes and promised students he would come back to sign the bills before them.
"This is the day we refocus our attention to the core responsibility of all administrators, teachers and parents -- providing a quality education to every child and every classroom and every school in Mississippi, to have every child graduate being career or college ready, to let the nation know we will no longer accept mediocrity, that in Mississippi education indeed works," Bryant said.
Among the new laws is one that expands the authority to create charter schools -- public schools run by private groups that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for less regulation.
Next up will be appointing a seven-member authorizing board to solicit and approve charter school applications. Bryant says he's already looking at names for his three appointments. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves gets three and the state superintendent of education gets one.
The board would begin operations Sept. 1, hire a combination executive director and lawyer under the law and seek proposals for schools by Dec. 1. Charter schools would be authorized for five-year terms.
Local schools boards in districts rated A, B and C under the state's A-to-F system would get vetoes over charter schools. Students would not be allowed to cross district lines to attend a charter school in another district.
Bryant also praised a law meant to improve literacy instruction in early grades, coupled with a requirement to flunk any third grader who can't read at basic levels.
"This agenda will create reading intervention programs that will stop the practice of social promotion from the third grade into the fourth grade if you cannot read at a third grade level," Bryant said. "We think this will dramatically increase our children's ability to read proficiently."
Other measures include a scholarship plan for high-performing students who become teachers and a pilot plan in four districts to partially pay teachers based on teaching evaluations and student test scores.