2004 Regular Session

To: Education

By: Representative Pierce

House Bill 657

(As Sent to Governor)



     SECTION 1.  Section 37-7-301, Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended by Senate Bill No. 2969, Regular Session 2004 and Senate Bill No. 3016, Regular Session 2004, is amended as follows:

     37-7-301.  The school boards of all school districts shall have the following powers, authority and duties in addition to all others imposed or granted by law, to wit:

          (a)  To organize and operate the schools of the district and to make such division between the high school grades and elementary grades as, in their judgment, will serve the best interests of the school;

          (b)  To introduce public school music, art, manual training and other special subjects into either the elementary or high school grades, as the board shall deem proper;

          (c)  To be the custodians of real and personal school property and to manage, control and care for same, both during the school term and during vacation;

          (d)  To have responsibility for the erection, repairing and equipping of school facilities and the making of necessary school improvements;

          (e)  To suspend or to expel a pupil or to change the placement of a pupil to the school district's alternative school or home-bound program for misconduct in the school or on school property, as defined in Section 37-11-29, on the road to and from school, or at any school-related activity or event, or for conduct occurring on property other than school property or other than at a school-related activity or event when such conduct by a pupil, in the determination of the school superintendent or principal, renders that pupil's presence in the classroom a disruption to the educational environment of the school or a detriment to the best interest and welfare of the pupils and teacher of such class as a whole, and to delegate such authority to the appropriate officials of the school district;

          (f)  To visit schools in the district, in their discretion, in a body for the purpose of determining what can be done for the improvement of the school in a general way;

          (g)  To support, within reasonable limits, the superintendent, principal and teachers where necessary for the proper discipline of the school;

          (h)  To exclude from the schools students with what appears to be infectious or contagious diseases; provided, however, such student may be allowed to return to school upon presenting a certificate from a public health officer, duly licensed physician or nurse practitioner that the student is free from such disease;

          (i)  To require those vaccinations specified by the State Health Officer as provided in Section 41-23-37, Mississippi Code of 1972;

          (j)  To see that all necessary utilities and services are provided in the schools at all times when same are needed;

          (k)  To authorize the use of the school buildings and grounds for the holding of public meetings and gatherings of the people under such regulations as may be prescribed by said board;

          (l)  To prescribe and enforce rules and regulations not inconsistent with law or with the regulations of the State Board of Education for their own government and for the government of the schools, and to transact their business at regular and special meetings called and held in the manner provided by law;

          (m)  To maintain and operate all of the schools under their control for such length of time during the year as may be required;

          (n)  To enforce in the schools the courses of study and the use of the textbooks prescribed by the proper authorities;

          (o)  To make orders directed to the superintendent of schools for the issuance of pay certificates for lawful purposes on any available funds of the district and to have full control of the receipt, distribution, allotment and disbursement of all funds provided for the support and operation of the schools of such school district whether such funds be derived from state appropriations, local ad valorem tax collections, or otherwise;

          (p)  To select all school district personnel in the manner provided by law, and to provide for such employee fringe benefit programs, including accident reimbursement plans, as may be deemed necessary and appropriate by the board;

          (q)  To provide athletic programs and other school activities and to regulate the establishment and operation of such programs and activities;

          (r)  To join, in their discretion, any association of school boards and other public school-related organizations, and to pay from local funds other than minimum foundation funds, any membership dues;

          (s)  To expend local school activity funds, or other available school district funds, other than minimum education program funds, for the purposes prescribed under this paragraph. "Activity funds" shall mean all funds received by school officials in all school districts paid or collected to participate in any school activity, such activity being part of the school program and partially financed with public funds or supplemented by public funds.  The term "activity funds" shall not include any funds raised and/or expended by any organization unless commingled in a bank account with existing activity funds, regardless of whether the funds were raised by school employees or received by school employees during school hours or using school facilities, and regardless of whether a school employee exercises influence over the expenditure or disposition of such funds.  Organizations shall not be required to make any payment to any school for the use of any school facility if, in the discretion of the local school governing board, the organization's function shall be deemed to be beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the school.  For the purposes of this provision, the term "organization" shall not include any organization subject to the control of the local school governing board.  Activity funds may only be expended for any necessary expenses or travel costs, including advances, incurred by students and their chaperons in attending any in-state or out-of-state school-related programs, conventions or seminars and/or any commodities, equipment, travel expenses, purchased services or school supplies which the local school governing board, in its discretion, shall deem beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the district, including items which may subsequently become the personal property of individuals, including yearbooks, athletic apparel, book covers and trophies.  Activity funds may be used to pay travel expenses of school district personnel.  The local school governing board shall be authorized and empowered to promulgate rules and regulations specifically designating for what purposes school activity funds may be expended.  The local school governing board shall provide (i) that such school activity funds shall be maintained and expended by the principal of the school generating the funds in individual bank accounts, or (ii) that such school activity funds shall be maintained and expended by the superintendent of schools in a central depository approved by the board.  The local school governing board shall provide that such school activity funds be audited as part of the annual audit required in Section 37-9-18.  The State Auditor shall prescribe a uniform system of accounting and financial reporting for all school activity fund transactions;

          (t)  To contract, on a shared savings, lease or lease-purchase basis, for energy efficiency services and/or equipment as provided for in Section 31-7-14, not to exceed ten (10) years;

          (u)  To maintain accounts and issue pay certificates on school food service bank accounts;

          (v)  (i)  To lease a school building from an individual, partnership, nonprofit corporation or a private for-profit corporation for the use of such school district, and to expend funds therefor as may be available from any nonminimum program sources.  The school board of the school district desiring to lease a school building shall declare by resolution that a need exists for a school building and that the school district cannot provide the necessary funds to pay the cost or its proportionate share of the cost of a school building required to meet the present needs.  The resolution so adopted by the school board shall be published once each week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper having a general circulation in the school district involved, with the first publication thereof to be made not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date upon which the school board is to act on the question of leasing a school building.  If no petition requesting an election is filed prior to such meeting as hereinafter provided, then the school board may, by resolution spread upon its minutes, proceed to lease a school building.  If at any time prior to said meeting a petition signed by not less than twenty percent (20%) or fifteen hundred (1500), whichever is less, of the qualified electors of the school district involved shall be filed with the school board requesting that an election be called on the question, then the school board shall, not later than the next regular meeting, adopt a resolution calling an election to be held within such school district upon the question of authorizing the school board to lease a school building.  Such election shall be called and held, and notice thereof shall be given, in the same manner for elections upon the questions of the issuance of the bonds of school districts, and the results thereof shall be certified to the school board.  If at least three-fifths (3/5) of the qualified electors of the school district who voted in such election shall vote in favor of the leasing of a school building, then the school board shall proceed to lease a school building.  The term of the lease contract shall not exceed twenty (20) years, and the total cost of such lease shall be either the amount of the lowest and best bid accepted by the school board after advertisement for bids or an amount not to exceed the current fair market value of the lease as determined by the averaging of at least two (2) appraisals by certified general appraisers licensed by the State of Mississippi.  The term "school building" as used in this item (v) shall be construed to mean any building or buildings used for classroom purposes in connection with the operation of schools and shall include the site therefor, necessary support facilities, and the equipment thereof and appurtenances thereto such as heating facilities, water supply, sewage disposal, landscaping, walks, drives and playgrounds.  The term "lease" as used in this item (v)(i) may include a lease/purchase contract;

              (ii)  If two (2) or more school districts propose to enter into a lease contract jointly, then joint meetings of the school boards having control may be held but no action taken shall be binding on any such school district unless the question of leasing a school building is approved in each participating school district under the procedure hereinabove set forth in item (v)(i). All of the provisions of item (v)(i) regarding the term and amount of the lease contract shall apply to the school boards of school districts acting jointly.  Any lease contract executed by two (2) or more school districts as joint lessees shall set out the amount of the aggregate lease rental to be paid by each, which may be agreed upon, but there shall be no right of occupancy by any lessee unless the aggregate rental is paid as stipulated in the lease contract.  All rights of joint lessees under the lease contract shall be in proportion to the amount of lease rental paid by each;

          (w)  To employ all noninstructional and noncertificated employees and fix the duties and compensation of such personnel deemed necessary pursuant to the recommendation of the superintendent of schools;

          (x)  To employ and fix the duties and compensation of such legal counsel as deemed necessary;

          (y)  Subject to rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, to purchase, own and operate trucks, vans and other motor vehicles, which shall bear the proper identification required by law;

          (z)  To expend funds for the payment of substitute teachers and to adopt reasonable regulations for the employment and compensation of such substitute teachers;

          (aa)  To acquire in its own name by purchase all real property which shall be necessary and desirable in connection with the construction, renovation or improvement of any public school building or structure.  Whenever the purchase price for such real property is greater than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00), the school board shall not purchase the property for an amount exceeding the fair market value of such property as determined by the average of at least two (2) independent appraisals by certified general appraisers licensed by the State of Mississippi. If the board shall be unable to agree with the owner of any such real property in connection with any such project, the board shall have the power and authority to acquire any such real property by condemnation proceedings pursuant to Section 11-27-1 et seq., Mississippi Code of 1972, and for such purpose, the right of eminent domain is hereby conferred upon and vested in said board.  Provided further, that the local school board is authorized to grant an easement for ingress and egress over sixteenth section land or lieu land in exchange for a similar easement upon adjoining land where the exchange of easements affords substantial benefit to the sixteenth section land; provided, however, the exchange must be based upon values as determined by a competent appraiser, with any differential in value to be adjusted by cash payment.  Any easement rights granted over sixteenth section land under such authority shall terminate when the easement ceases to be used for its stated purpose.  No sixteenth section or lieu land which is subject to an existing lease shall be burdened by any such easement except by consent of the lessee or unless the school district shall acquire the unexpired leasehold interest affected by the easement;

          (bb)  To charge reasonable fees related to the educational programs of the district, in the manner prescribed in Section 37-7-335;

          (cc)  Subject to rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, to purchase relocatable classrooms for the use of such school district, in the manner prescribed in Section 37-1-13;

          (dd)  Enter into contracts or agreements with other school districts, political subdivisions or governmental entities to carry out one or more of the powers or duties of the school board, or to allow more efficient utilization of limited resources for providing services to the public;

          (ee)  To provide for in-service training for employees of the district.  Until June 30, 1994, the school boards may designate two (2) days of the minimum school term, as defined in Section 37-19-1, for employee in-service training for implementation of the new statewide testing system as developed by the State Board of Education.  Such designation shall be subject to approval by the State Board of Education pursuant to uniform rules and regulations;

          (ff)  As part of their duties to prescribe the use of textbooks, to provide that parents and legal guardians shall be responsible for the textbooks and for the compensation to the school district for any books which are not returned to the proper schools upon the withdrawal of their dependent child.  If a textbook is lost or not returned by any student who drops out of the public school district, the parent or legal guardian shall also compensate the school district for the fair market value of the textbooks;

          (gg)  To conduct fund-raising activities on behalf of the school district that the local school board, in its discretion, deems appropriate or beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the district; provided that:

              (i)  Any proceeds of the fund-raising activities shall be treated as "activity funds" and shall be accounted for as are other activity funds under this section; and

              (ii)  Fund-raising activities conducted or authorized by the board for the sale of school pictures, the rental of caps and gowns or the sale of graduation invitations for which the school board receives a commission, rebate or fee shall contain a disclosure statement advising that a portion of the proceeds of the sales or rentals shall be contributed to the student activity fund;

          (hh)  To allow individual lessons for music, art and other curriculum-related activities for academic credit or nonacademic credit during school hours and using school equipment and facilities, subject to uniform rules and regulations adopted by the school board;

          (ii)  To charge reasonable fees for participating in an extracurricular activity for academic or nonacademic credit for necessary and required equipment such as safety equipment, band instruments and uniforms;

          (jj)  To conduct or participate in any fund-raising activities on behalf of or in connection with a tax-exempt charitable organization;

          (kk)  To exercise such powers as may be reasonably necessary to carry out the provisions of this section; * * *

          (ll)  To expend funds for the services of nonprofit arts organizations or other such nonprofit organizations who provide performances or other services for the students of the school district;

          (mm)  To expend federal No Child Left Behind Act funds, or any other available funds that are expressly designated and authorized for that use, to pay training, educational expenses, salary incentives and salary supplements to employees of local school districts; except that incentives shall not be considered part of the local supplement as defined in Section 37-151-5(o), nor shall incentives be considered part of the local supplement paid to an individual teacher for the purposes of Section 37-19-7(1).  Mississippi Adequate Education Program funds or any other state funds may not be used for salary incentives or salary supplements as provided in this paragraph (mm);

          (nn)  To use any available funds, not appropriated or designated for any other purpose, for reimbursement to the state-licensed employees from both in-state and out-of-state, who enter into a contract for employment in a school district, for the expense of moving when the employment necessitates the relocation of the licensed employee to a different geographical area than that in which the licensed employee resides before entering into the contract.  The reimbursement shall not exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) for the documented actual expenses incurred in the course of relocating, including the expense of any professional moving company or persons employed to assist with the move, rented moving vehicles or equipment, mileage in the amount authorized for county and municipal employees under Section 25-3-41 if the licensed employee used his personal vehicle or vehicles for the move, meals and such other expenses associated with the relocation.  No licensed employee may be reimbursed for moving expenses under this section on more than one (1) occasion by the same school district.  Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the actual residence to which the licensed employee relocates to be within the boundaries of the school district that has executed a contract for employment in order for the licensed employee to be eligible for reimbursement for the moving expenses.  However, the licensed employee must relocate within the boundaries of the State of Mississippi.  Any individual receiving relocation assistance through the Critical Teacher Shortage Act as provided in Section 37-159-5 shall not be eligible to receive additional relocation funds as authorized in this paragraph;

          (oo)  To use any available funds, not appropriated or designated for any other purpose, to reimburse persons who interview for employment as a licensed employee with the district for the mileage and other actual expenses incurred in the course of travel to and from the interview at the rate authorized for county and municipal employees under Section 25-3-41;

          (pp)  Consistent with the report of the Task Force to Conduct a Best Financial Management Practices Review, to improve school district management and use of resources and identify cost savings as established in Section 8 of Chapter 610, Laws of 2002, local school boards are encouraged to conduct independent reviews of the management and efficiency of schools and school districts.  Such management and efficiency reviews shall provide state and local officials and the public with the following:

              (i)  An assessment of a school district's governance and organizational structure;

              (ii)  An assessment of the school district's financial and personnel management;

              (iii)  An assessment of revenue levels and sources;

              (iv)  An assessment of facilities utilization, planning and maintenance;

              (v)  An assessment of food services, transportation and safety/security systems;

              (vi)  An assessment of instructional and administrative technology;

              (vii)  A review of the instructional management and the efficiency and effectiveness of existing instructional programs; and

              (viii)  Recommended methods for increasing efficiency and effectiveness in providing educational services to the public;

          (qq)  To enter into agreements with other local school boards for the establishment of an educational service agency (ESA) to provide for the cooperative needs of the region in which the school district is located, as provided in Section 1 of Senate Bill No. 3016, 2004 Regular Session.  This paragraph shall repeal on July 1, 2007;

          (rr)  To implement a financial literacy program for students in Grades 10 and 11.  The board may review the national programs and obtain free literature from various nationally recognized programs.  After review of the different programs, the board may certify a program that is most appropriate for the school districts' needs.  If a district implements a financial literacy program, then any student in Grade 10 or 11 may participate in the program.  The financial literacy program shall include, but is not limited to, instruction in the same areas of personal business and finance as required under Section 37-1-3(2)(b).  The school board may coordinate with volunteer teachers from local community organizations, including, but not limited to, the following:  United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Junior Achievement, bankers and other nonprofit organizations.  Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as to require school boards to implement a financial literacy program;

          (ss)  To collaborate with the State Board of Education, Community Action Agencies or the Department of Human Services to develop and implement a voluntary program to provide services for a full day prekindergarten program that addresses the cognitive, social, and emotional needs of four-year-old and three-year-old children.  The school board may utilize nonstate source special funds, grants, donations or gifts to fund the voluntary program.

     SECTION 2.  The following provision shall be codified as Section 37-15-37, Mississippi Code of 1972:

     37-15-37.  The local school boards of public school districts and the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning are authorized to establish a dual enrollment program under which high school students meeting the requirements prescribed in this section may enroll at an institution of higher learning in Mississippi while they are still attending high school and enrolled in high school courses, with tuition and costs to be paid by grants, foundations or other private sources.  Students may be admitted to enroll in university-level courses under the dual enrollment program if they meet the following recommended admission requirements:

          (a)  Students must have completed a minimum of fourteen (14) core high school units;

          (b)  Students must have a 2.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale, or better, on all high school courses, as documented by an official high school transcript; a home-schooled student must submit a transcript prepared by a parent, guardian or custodian with a signed, sworn affidavit to meet the requirement of this paragraph; and

          (c)  Students must have an unconditional written recommendation from their high school principal and/or guidance counselor.  A home-schooled student must submit a parent, legal guardian or custodian's written recommendation to meet the requirement of this paragraph.

     Students may be considered for the dual enrollment program who have not completed the minimum of fourteen (14) core high school units if they have a minimum ACT composite score of thirty (30) or the equivalent SAT score, and have the required grade point average and recommendations prescribed above.

     Tuition and costs for university-level courses under this program shall be paid from grants, foundations or other private sources, to be paid directly to the participating university.  Students admitted in the dual enrollment program shall be counted for adequate education program funding purposes in the average daily attendance of the public school district in which they attend high school.  Any additional transportation required by a student to participate in the dual enrollment program shall be the responsibility of the parents or legal guardians of the student, but may be paid for from private sources.  Grades and college credits earned by students admitted to the dual enrollment program shall be recorded on the college transcript at the university where the student attends classes.  The transcript of such university course work may be released to another institution or used for college graduation requirements only after the student has received his high school diploma.

     SECTION 3.  Section 37-13-92, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     37-13-92.  (1)  Beginning with the school year 2004-2005, the school boards of all school districts shallestablish, maintain and operate, in connection with the regular programs of the school district, an alternative school program or behavior modification program as defined by the State Board of Education for, but not limited to, the following categories of compulsory-school-age students:

          (a)  Any compulsory-school-age child who has been suspended for more than ten (10) days or expelled from school, except for any student expelled for possession of a weapon or other felonious conduct;

          (b)  Any compulsory-school-age child referred to such alternative school based upon a documented need for placement in the alternative school program by the parent, legal guardian or custodian of such child due to disciplinary problems;

          (c)  Any compulsory-school-age child referred to such alternative school program by the dispositive order of a chancellor or youth court judge, with the consent of the superintendent of the child's school district; and

          (d)  Any compulsory-school-age child whose presence in the classroom, in the determination of the school superintendent or principal, is a disruption to the educational environment of the school or a detriment to the best interest and welfare of the students and teacher of such class as a whole.

     (2)  The principal or program administrator of any such alternative school program shall require verification from the appropriate guidance counselor of any such child referred to the alternative school program regarding the suitability of such child for attendance at the alternative school program.  Before a student may be removed to an alternative school education program, the superintendent of the student's school district must determine that the written and distributed disciplinary policy of the local district is being followed.  The policy shall include standards for:

          (a)  The removal of a student to an alternative education program that will include a process of educational review to develop the student's individual instruction plan and the evaluation at regular intervals of the student's educational progress; the process shall include classroom teachers and/or other appropriate professional personnel, as defined in the district policy, to ensure a continuing educational program for the removed student;

          (b)  The duration of alternative placement; and

          (c)  The notification of parents or guardians, and their appropriate inclusion in the removal and evaluation process, as defined in the district policy.  Nothing in this paragraph should be defined in a manner to circumvent the principal's or the superintendent's authority to remove a student to alternative education.

     (3)  The local school board or the superintendent shall provide for the continuing education of a student who has been removed to an alternative school program.

     (4)  A school district, in its discretion, may provide a program of general educational development (GED) preparatory instruction in the alternative school program.  However, any GED preparation program offered in an alternative school program must be administered in compliance with the rules and regulations established for such programs under Sections 37-35-1 through 37-35-11 and by the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges. The school district may administer the General Educational Development (GED) Testing Program under the policies and guidelines of the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education in the alternative school program or may authorize the test to be administered through the community/junior college district in which the alternative school is situated.

     (5)  Any such alternative school program operated under the authority of this section shall meet all appropriate accreditation requirements of the State Department of Education.

     (6)  The alternative school program may be held within such school district or may be operated by two (2) or more adjacent school districts, pursuant to a contract approved by the State Board of Education.  When two (2) or more school districts contract to operate an alternative school program, the school board of a district designated to be the lead district shall serve as the governing board of the alternative school program.  Transportation for students attending the alternative school program shall be the responsibility of the local school district.  The expense of establishing, maintaining and operating such alternative school program may be paid from funds contributed or otherwise made available to the school district for such purpose or from local district maintenance funds.

     (7)  The State Board of Education shall promulgate minimum guidelines for alternative school programs.  The guidelines shall require, at a minimum, the formulation of an individual instruction plan for each student referred to the alternative school program and, upon a determination that it is in a student's best interest for that student to receive general educational development (GED) preparatory instruction, that the local school board assign the student to a GED preparatory program established under subsection (4) of this section.  The minimum guidelines for alternative school programs shall also require the following components:

          (a)  Clear guidelines and procedures for placement of students into alternative education programs which at a minimum shall prescribe due process procedures for disciplinary and general educational development (GED) placement;

          (b)  Clear and consistent goals for students and parents;

          (c)  Curricula addressing cultural and learning style differences;

          (d)  Direct supervision of all activities on a closed campus;

          (e)  Full-day attendance with a rigorous workload and minimal time off;

          (f)  Selection of program from options provided by the local school district, Division of Youth Services or the youth court, including transfer to a community-based alternative school;

          (g)  Continual monitoring and evaluation and formalized passage from one step or program to another;

          (h)  A motivated and culturally diverse staff;

          (i)  Counseling for parents and students;

          (j)  Administrative and community support for the program; and

          (k)  Clear procedures for annual alternative school program review and evaluation.

     (8)  On request of a school district, the State Department of Education shall provide the district informational material on developing an alternative school program that takes into consideration size, wealth and existing facilities in determining a program best suited to a district.

     (9)  Any compulsory-school-age child who becomes involved in any criminal or violent behavior shall be removed from such alternative school program and, if probable cause exists, a case shall be referred to the youth court.

     (10)  The State Board of Education, in its discretion, may exempt not more than four (4) school district alternative school programs in the state from any compulsory standard of accreditation for a period of three (3) years.  During this period, the State Department of Education shall conduct a study of all alternative school programs in the state, and on or before January 1, 2000, shall develop and promulgate accreditation standards for all alternative school programs, including any recommendations for necessary legislation relating to such alternative school programs.

     SECTION 4.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2004.