2000 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Senator(s) Harden
Senate Bill 2307
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 37-17-6, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ESTABLISH A SCHOOL ASSESSMENT TASK FORCE WITHIN THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO STUDY AND PROPOSE A REVISED SYSTEM OF SCHOOL ACCREDITATION AND TO MAKE A RECOMMENDATION THEREON TO THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, TO PRESCRIBE CERTAIN STANDARDS FOR THE REVISED ACCREDITATION PLAN AND TO PROVIDE FOR A TWO-YEAR IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD FOR THE PROPOSED ACCREDITATION SYSTEM; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 37-17-6, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-17-6. (1) In order to assist the work of the Commission on School Accreditation in the implementation of school accreditation, there is hereby established within the State Department of Education a School Assessment Task Force to be composed of seventeen (17) qualified members. The task force shall consist of the following membership, to be appointed by the Governor on or before July 1, 2000, with three (3) members to be appointed from each congressional district and two (2) members to be appointed from the state at large: two (2) classroom teachers, two (2) school administrators, one (1) representative of public junior colleges, one (1) representative of institutions of higher learning, one (1) representative of the Commission on School Accreditation, two (2) local school board members, one (1) representative of the State Superintendent of Education and seven (7) lay persons. The task force shall be appointed by the Governor and shall become effective July 1, 2000. The Governor shall designate one (1) of the members of the task force as its chairman. The first meeting of the task force shall be called by the Governor as soon after July 1, 2000, as practical. Thereafter the task force shall meet when called by its chairman, but in no event less than one (1) time per month. Members of the task force shall be compensated at a rate of per diem as authorized by Section 25-3-69 and be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses as authorized by Section 25-3-41.
(2) An appropriate staff member of the State Department of Education shall be designated and assigned by the State Superintendent of Public Education to serve as executive secretary to the task force. The State Superintendent of Public Education shall also assign sufficient staff members from the State Department of Education to serve as the staff of the task force.
(3) It shall be the duty of the task force to undertake a study and to propose a plan to establish guidelines and criteria for a revised school accreditation system and to report to the Commission on School Accreditation on or before July 1, 2001, on such a study and plan, and it shall further be the duty of the task force to conduct a study and to make recommendations to the State Board of Education through the Commission on School Accreditation concerning curriculum and courses of study to be used in the public schools that are best designed to prepare the state's children and youth to be productive, informed and creative citizens, workers and leaders. Such a study and plan should take into account, but not necessarily be limited to, the following factors relating to school accreditation:
(a) The role and behavior of the school principal;
(b) The amount of time given to instruction (hours per day and days per year), especially in fundamentals;
(c) The availability and quality of preschool programs and the level of preparedness of children who have been in those programs;
(d) School-wide student discipline practices and policies;
(e) The emphasis placed on acquisition of basic skills;
(f) The commitment to bringing all children to a minimum level of achievement;
(g) The nature and quality of feedback given to students about their level of performance and the amount of reinforcement given to learning;
(h) Teacher preparedness as reflected in lesson plans, learning objectives, assessment criteria and materials;
(i) Classroom decorum, discipline and management;
(j) The use of mastery learning techniques, direct instruction and active teaching in each classroom;
(k) The amount of time on task in all learning situations, and methods of assessing time on task as a measure of teacher effectiveness;
(l) The availability and use of diagnostic measurements in grade placement, assessment of a need for compensatory work or remediation, and academic achievement;
(m) The proper sequencing of subject matter from class to class and grade level to grade level;
(n) The coordination of curriculum throughout the system so that teachers know what has been taught in previous grades and what will be taught in subsequent grades.
(4) To aid in carrying out this study, the task force is authorized to hold public hearings and to hire expert consultants.
(5) The task force is to be disbanded by the State Board of Education on or before July 1, 2001, upon the filing of the report of the task force.
(6) Once the task force has made its report to the Commission on School Accreditation, the State Board of Education, acting through the Commission on School Accreditation, shall develop by July 1, 2001, a revised accreditation system, based on said report of the task force for use in accrediting schools in the state. To ensure that a workable system is adopted, the State Department of Education, through the Commission on School Accreditation, shall undertake a two-year field testing and implementation period of the proposed accreditation system.
(7) No later than June 30, 1995, the State Board of Education, acting through the Commission on School Accreditation, shall require school districts to provide school classroom space that is air conditioned as a minimum requirement for accreditation.
(8) (a) Beginning with the 1994-1995 school year, the State Board of Education, acting through the Commission on School Accreditation, shall require that school districts employ certified school librarians according to the following formula:
Number of Students Number of Certified
Per School Library School Librarians
0 - 499 Students 1/2 Full-time Equivalent Certified Librarian
500 or More Students 1 Full-time Certified Librarian
(b) The State Board of Education, however, may increase the number of positions beyond the above requirements.
(c) The assignment of such school librarians to the particular schools shall be at the discretion of the local school district. No individual shall be employed as a certified school librarian without appropriate training and certification as a school librarian by the State Department of Education.
(d) School librarians in such district shall spend at least fifty percent (50%) of direct work time in a school library and shall devote no more than one-fourth (1/4) of the workday to administrative activities which are library related.
(e) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit any school district from employing more certified school librarians than are provided for in this section.
(f) Any additional millage levied to fund school librarians required for accreditation under this subsection shall be included in the tax increase limitation set forth in Sections 37-57-105 and 37-57-107 and shall not be deemed a new program for purposes of the limitation.
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(9) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to require a nonpublic school which receives no local, state or federal funds for support to become accredited by the State Board of Education.
(10) The State Board of Education shall create an accreditation audit unit under the Commission on School Accreditation to determine whether schools are complying with accreditation standards.
(11) The State Board of Education shall be specifically authorized and empowered to withhold adequate minimum education program or adequate education program fund allocations, whichever is applicable, to any public school district for failure to timely report student, school personnel and fiscal data necessary to meet state and/or federal requirements.
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(12) The State Board of Education shall establish, for those school districts failing to meet accreditation standards, a program of development to be complied with in order to receive state funds, except as otherwise provided in subsection (17) of this section when the Governor has declared a state of emergency in a school district or as otherwise provided in Section 206, Mississippi Constitution of 1890. The state board, in establishing these standards, shall provide for notice to schools and sufficient time and aid to enable schools to attempt to meet these standards, unless procedures under subsection (17) of this section have been invoked.
(13) Beginning July 1, 1998, the State Board of Education shall be charged with the implementation of the program of development in each applicable school district as follows:
(a) Develop an impairment report for each district failing to meet accreditation standards in conjunction with school district officials;
(b) Notify any applicable school district failing to meet accreditation standards that it is on probation until corrective actions are taken or until the deficiencies have been removed. The local school district shall develop a corrective action plan to improve its deficiencies. For district academic deficiencies, the corrective action plan for each such school district shall be based upon a complete analysis of the following: student test data, student grades, student attendance reports, student drop-out data, existence and other relevant data. The corrective action plan shall describe the specific measures to be taken by the particular school district and school to improve: (a) instruction; (b) curriculum; (c) professional development; (d) personnel and classroom organization; (e) student incentives for performance; (f) process deficiencies; and (g) reporting to the local school board, parents and the community. The corrective action plan shall describe the specific individuals responsible for implementing each component of the recommendation and how each will be evaluated. All corrective action plans shall be provided to the State Board of Education as may be required. The decision of the State Board of Education establishing the probationary period of time shall be final;
(c) Offer, during the probationary period, technical assistance to the school district in making corrective actions. Beginning July 1, 1998, subject to the availability of funds, the State Department of Education shall provide technical and/or financial assistance to all such school districts in order to implement each measure identified in that district's corrective action plan through professional development and on-site assistance. Each such school district shall apply for and utilize all available federal funding in order to support its corrective action plan in addition to state funds made available under this paragraph;
(d) Contract, in its discretion, with the institutions of higher learning or other appropriate private entities to assist school districts;
(e) Provide for publication of public notice at least one (1) time during the probationary period, in a newspaper published within the jurisdiction of the school district failing to meet accreditation standards, or if no newspaper is published therein, then in a newspaper having a general circulation therein. The publication shall include the following: declaration of school system's status as being on probation; all details relating to the impairment report, and other information as the State Board of Education deems appropriate. Public notices issued under this section shall be subject to Section 13-3-31 and not contrary to other laws regarding newspaper publication.
(14) (a) If the recommendations for corrective action are not taken by the local school district or if the deficiencies are not removed by the end of the probationary period, the Commission on School Accreditation shall conduct a hearing to allow such affected school district to present evidence or other reasons why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. Subsequent to its consideration of the results of such hearing, the Commission on School Accreditation shall be authorized, with the approval of the State Board of Education, to withdraw the accreditation of a public school district, and issue a request to the Governor that a state of emergency be declared in that district.
(b) If the State Board of Education and the Commission on School Accreditation determine that an extreme emergency situation exists in a school district which jeopardizes the safety, security or educational interests of the children enrolled in the schools in that district and such emergency situation is believed to be related to a serious violation or violations of accreditation standards or state or federal law, the State Board of Education may request the Governor to declare a state of emergency in that school district. For purposes of this paragraph, such declarations of a state of emergency shall not be limited to those instances when a school district's impairments are related to a lack of financial resources, but also shall include serious failure to meet minimum academic standards, as evidenced by a continued pattern of poor student performance.
(c) Whenever the Governor declares a state of emergency in a school district in response to a request made under paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection, the State Board of Education may take one or more of the following actions:
(i) Declare a state of emergency, under which some or all of state funds can be escrowed except as otherwise provided in Section 206, Constitution of 1890, until the board determines corrective actions are being taken or the deficiencies have been removed, or that the needs of students warrant the release of funds. Such funds may be released from escrow for any program which the board determines to have been restored to standard even though the state of emergency may not as yet be terminated for the district as a whole;
(ii) Override any decision of the local school board or superintendent of education, or both, concerning the management and operation of the school district, or initiate and make decisions concerning the management and operation of the school district;
(iii) Assign an interim conservator who will have those powers and duties prescribed in subsection (14) of this section;
(iv) Grant transfers to students who attend this school district so that they may attend other accredited schools or districts in a manner which is not in violation of state or federal law;
(v) For states of emergency declared under paragraph (a) only, if the accreditation deficiencies are related to the fact that the school district is too small, with too few resources, to meet the required standards and if another school district is willing to accept those students, abolish that district and assign that territory to another school district or districts. If the school district has proposed a voluntary consolidation with another school district or districts, then if the State Board of Education finds that it is in the best interest of the pupils of the district for such consolidation to proceed, the voluntary consolidation shall have priority over any such assignment of territory by the State Board of Education;
(vi) For states of emergency declared under paragraph (b) only, reduce local supplements paid to school district employees, including, but not limited to, instructional personnel, assistant teachers and extracurricular activities personnel, if the district's impairment is related to a lack of financial resources, but only to an extent which will result in the salaries being comparable to districts similarly situated, as determined by the State Board of Education;
(vii) For states of emergency declared under paragraph (b) only, the State Board of Education must take such action as prescribed in Section 37-17-13.
(d) At such time as satisfactory corrective action has been taken in a school district in which a state of emergency has been declared, the State Board of Education may request the Governor to declare that the state of emergency no longer exists in the district.
(15) Upon the declaration of a state of emergency in a school district under subsection (14) of this section, the Commission on School Accreditation shall be responsible for public notice at least once a week for at least three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper published within the jurisdiction of the school district failing to meet accreditation standards, or if no newspaper is published therein, then in a newspaper having a general circulation therein. The size of such notice shall be no smaller than one-fourth (1/4) of a standard newspaper page and shall be printed in bold print. If a conservator has been appointed for the school district, such notice shall begin as follows: "By authority of Section 37-17-6, Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, adopted by the Mississippi Legislature during the 1991 Regular Session, this school district (name of school district) is hereby placed under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education acting through its appointed conservator (name of conservator)."
The notice also shall include, in the discretion of the State Board of Education, any or all details relating to the school district's emergency status, including the declaration of a state of emergency in the school district and a description of the district's impairment deficiencies, conditions of any conservatorship and corrective actions recommended and being taken. Public notices issued under this section shall be subject to Section 13-3-31 and not contrary to other laws regarding newspaper publication.
Upon termination of the state of emergency in a school district, the Commission on School Accreditation shall cause notice to be published in the school district in the same manner provided in this section, to include any or all details relating to the corrective action taken in the school district which resulted in the termination of the state of emergency.
(16) The State Board of Education or the Commission on School Accreditation shall have the authority to require school districts to produce the necessary reports, correspondence, financial statements, and any other documents and information necessary to fulfill the requirements of this section.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant any individual, corporation, board or conservator the authority to levy taxes except in accordance with presently existing statutory provisions.
(17) (a) Whenever the Governor declares a state of emergency in a school district in response to a request made under subsection (14) of this section, the State Board of Education, in its discretion, may assign an interim conservator to the school district who will be responsible for the administration, management and operation of the school district, including, but not limited to, the following activities:
(i) Approving or disapproving all financial obligations of the district, including, but not limited to, the employment, termination, nonrenewal and reassignment of all certified and noncertified personnel, contractual agreements and purchase orders, and approving or disapproving all claim dockets and the issuance of checks; in approving or disapproving employment contracts of superintendents, assistant superintendents or principals, the interim conservator shall not be required to comply with the time limitations prescribed in Sections 37-9-15 and 37-9-105;
(ii) Supervising the day-to-day activities of the district's staff, including reassigning the duties and responsibilities of personnel in a manner which, in the determination of the conservator, will best suit the needs of the district;
(iii) Reviewing the district's total financial obligations and operations and making recommendations to the district for cost savings, including, but not limited to, reassigning the duties and responsibilities of staff;
(iv) Attending all meetings of the district's school board and administrative staff;
(v) Approving or disapproving all athletic, band and other extracurricular activities and any matters related to those activities;
(vi) Maintaining a detailed account of recommendations made to the district and actions taken in response to those recommendations;
(vii) Reporting periodically to the State Board of Education on the progress or lack of progress being made in the district to improve the district's impairments during the state of emergency; and
(viii) Appointing a parent advisory committee, comprised of parents of students in the school district, which may make recommendations to the conservator concerning the administration, management and operation of the school district.
Except when, in the determination of the State Board of Education, the school district's impairment is related to a lack of financial resources, the cost of the salary of the conservator and any other actual and necessary costs related to the conservatorship paid by the State Department of Education shall be reimbursed by the local school district from nonminimum program funds. The department shall submit an itemized statement to the superintendent of the local school district for reimbursement purposes, and any unpaid balance may be withheld from the district's minimum or adequate education program funds.
At such time as the Governor, pursuant to the request of the State Board of Education, declares that the state of emergency no longer exists in a school district, the powers and responsibilities of the interim conservator assigned to such district shall cease.
(b) In order to provide loans to school districts under a state of emergency which have impairments related to a lack of financial resources, the School District Emergency Assistance Fund is created as a special fund in the State Treasury into which monies may be transferred or appropriated by the Legislature from any available public education funds. The maximum amount that may be appropriated or transferred to the School District Emergency Assistance Fund for any one (1) emergency shall be Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000.00), and the maximum amount that may be appropriated during any fiscal year shall be Three Million Dollars ($3,000,000.00).
The State Board of Education may loan monies from the School District Emergency Assistance Fund to a school district that is under a state of emergency in such amounts, as determined by the board, which are necessary to correct the district's impairments related to a lack of financial resources. The loans shall be evidenced by an agreement between the school district and the State Board of Education and shall be repayable in principal, without necessity of interest, to the State General Fund or the Education Enhancement Fund, depending on the source of funding for such loan, by the school district from any allowable funds that are available. The total amount loaned to the district shall be due and payable within five (5) years after the impairments related to a lack of financial resources are corrected. If a school district fails to make payments on the loan in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the district and the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, in accordance with rules and regulations established by the State Board of Education, may withhold that district's minimum program funds in an amount and manner that will effectuate repayment consistent with the terms of the agreement; such funds withheld by the department shall be deposited into the State General Fund or the Education Enhancement Fund, as the case may be.
If the State Board of Education determines that an extreme emergency exists, simultaneous with the powers exercised in this subsection, it shall take immediate action against all parties responsible for the affected school districts having been determined to be in an extreme emergency. Such action shall include, but not be limited to, initiating civil actions to recover funds and criminal actions to account for criminal activity. Any funds recovered by the State Auditor or the State Board of Education from the surety bonds of school officials or from any civil action brought under this subsection shall be applied toward the repayment of any loan made to a school district hereunder.
(18) In the event a majority of the membership of the school board of any school district resigns from office, the State Board of Education shall be authorized to assign an interim conservator, who shall be responsible for the administration, management and operation of the school district until such time as new board members are selected or the Governor declares a state of emergency in that school district under subsection (14), whichever occurs first. In such case, the State Board of Education, acting through the interim conservator, shall have all powers which were held by the previously existing school board, and may take such action as prescribed in Section 37-17-13 and/or one or more of the actions authorized in this section.
(19) Beginning with the school district audits conducted for the 1997-1998 fiscal year, the State Board of Education, acting through the Commission on School Accreditation, shall require each school district to comply with standards established by the State Department of Audit for the verification of fixed assets and the auditing of fixed assets records as a minimum requirement for accreditation.
(20) Before December 1, 1999, the State Board of Education shall recommend a program to the Education Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate for identifying and rewarding public schools that improve or are high-performing. The program shall be described by the board in a written report, which shall include criteria and a process through which improving schools and high-performing schools will be identified and rewarded.
The State Superintendent of Education and the State Board of Education also shall develop a comprehensive accountability plan to ensure that local school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers are held accountable for student achievement. A written report on the accountability plan shall be submitted to the Education Committees of both houses of the Legislature before December 1, 1999, with any necessary legislative recommendations.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2000.