2006 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representative Brown, Weathersby, Lott, Montgomery, Reynolds, Upshaw, Walley
AN ACT TO CREATE THE OFFICE OF DROPOUT PREVENTION WITHIN THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; TO PROVIDE THAT THE STATE SUPERINTENDENT SHALL APPOINT A DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE; TO AMEND SECTION 37-13-81, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PLACE THE OFFICE OF COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE ENFORCEMENT UNDER THE OFFICE OF DROPOUT PREVENTION; TO AMEND SECTION 37-13-83, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE ENFORCEMENT TO REPORT DIRECTLY TO THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF DROPOUT PREVENTION; TO AMEND SECTIONS 37-13-85, 37-13-89, 37-13-107, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY; TO AMEND SECTION 37-7-301, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT TO IMPLEMENT A DROPOUT PREVENTION PROGRAM BY THE 2008 SCHOOL YEAR; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) There is created the Office of Dropout Prevention within the State Department of Education. The office shall be responsible for the administration of a statewide dropout prevention program and the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement.
(2) The State Superintendent of Public Education shall appoint a director for the Office of Dropout Prevention, who shall meet all qualifications established by the State Superintendent of Public Education or State Personnel Board. The director shall be responsible for the proper administration of the Office of Dropout Prevention and any other regulations or policies that may be adopted by the State Board of Education. The director shall report to the Legislature on the activities and programs of the office by January 1 of each year beginning in 2009.
(3) It is the intent of the Legislature that, through the statewide dropout prevention program and the dropout prevention programs implemented by each school district, the graduation rate for cohort classes will be increased to not less than eighty-five percent (85%) by the 2018-2019 school year. The Office of Dropout Prevention shall establish graduation rate benchmarks for each two-year period from the 2008-2009 school year through the 2018-2019 school year, which shall serve as guidelines for increasing the graduation rate for cohort classes on a systematic basis to eighty-five percent (85%) by the 2018-2019 school year.
SECTION 2. Section 37-13-81, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-81. There is created the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement within the Office of Dropout Prevention of the State Department of Education. The office shall be responsible for the administration of a statewide system of enforcement of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law (Section 37-13-91) and for the supervision of school attendance officers throughout the state.
SECTION 3. Section 37-13-83, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-83. The State Superintendent of Public Education shall appoint a director for the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement, who shall meet all qualifications established for school attendance officer supervisors and any additional qualifications that may be established by the State Superintendent of Public Education or State Personnel Board. The director shall be responsible for the proper administration of the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement in conformity with the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law and any other regulations or policies that may be adopted by the State Board of Education. The director will report directly to the director of the Office of Dropout Prevention.
SECTION 4. Section 37-13-85, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-85. The Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement within the Office of Dropout Prevention shall have the following powers and duties, in addition to all others imposed or granted by law:
(a) To establish any policies or guidelines concerning the employment of school attendance officers which serve to effectuate a uniform system of enforcement under the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law throughout the state, and to designate the number of school attendance officers which shall be employed to serve in each school district area;
(b) To supervise and assist school attendance officer supervisors in the performance of their duties;
(c) To establish minimum standards for enrollment and attendance for the state and each individual school district, and to monitor the success of the state and districts in achieving the required levels of performance;
(d) To provide to school districts failing to meet the established standards for enrollment and attendance assistance in reducing absenteeism or the dropout rates in those districts;
(e) To establish any qualifications, in addition to those required under Section 37-13-89, for school attendance officers as the office deems necessary to further the purposes of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law;
(f) To develop and implement a system under which school districts are required to maintain accurate records that document enrollment and attendance in such a manner that the records reflect all changes in enrollment and attendance, and to require school attendance officers to submit information concerning public school attendance on a monthly basis to the office;
(g) To prepare the form of the certificate of enrollment required under the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law and to furnish a sufficient number of the certificates of enrollment to each school attendance officer in the state;
(h) To publish a report each year on the work of school attendance officers in each school district concerning enforcement of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law. The report shall include: figures reflecting school attendance violations and reductions or increases in the school dropout rates; information describing attendance-related problems and proposed solutions for those problems; and any other information that the State Department of Education may require. The report shall be submitted to the State Board of Education and the Education Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives before the first day of July for the immediately preceding school year;
(i) To provide to the State Board of Education statistical information concerning absenteeism, dropouts and other attendance-related problems as requested by the State Board of Education;
(j) To provide for the certification of school attendance officers;
(k) To provide for a course of training and education for school attendance officers, and to require successful completion of the course as a prerequisite to certification by the office as school attendance officers;
(l) To adopt any guidelines or policies the office deems necessary to effectuate an orderly transition from the supervision of school attendance officers by district attorneys to the supervision by the school attendance officer supervisors;
(m) Beginning on July 1, 1998, to require school attendance officer supervisors to employ persons employed by district attorneys before July 1, 1998, as school attendance officers without requiring such persons to submit an application or interview for employment with the State Department of Education;
(n) To adopt policies or guidelines linking the duties of school attendance officers to the appropriate courts, law enforcement agencies and community service providers; and
(o) To adopt any other policies or guidelines that the office deems necessary for the enforcement of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law; however, the policies or guidelines shall not add to or contradict with the requirements of Section 37-13-91.
SECTION 5. Section 37-13-89, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-89. (1) In each school district within the state, there shall be employed the number of school attendance officers determined by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement within the Office of Dropout Prevention to be necessary to adequately enforce the provisions of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law; however, this number shall not exceed one hundred fifty-three (153) school attendance officers at any time. From and after July 1, 1998, all school attendance officers employed pursuant to this section shall be employees of the State Department of Education. The State Department of Education shall employ all persons employed as school attendance officers by district attorneys before July 1, 1998, and shall assign them to school attendance responsibilities in the school district in which they were employed before July 1, 1998. The first twelve (12) months of employment for each school attendance officer shall be the probationary period of state service.
(2) (a) The State Department of Education shall obtain current criminal records background checks and current child abuse registry checks on all persons applying for the position of school attendance officer after July 2, 2002. The criminal records information and registry checks must be kept on file for any new hires. In order to determine an applicant's suitability for employment as a school attendance officer, the applicant must be fingerprinted. If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the Department of Public Safety shall forward the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a national criminal history record check. The applicant shall pay the fee, not to exceed Fifty Dollars ($50.00), for the fingerprinting and criminal records background check; however, the State Department of Education, in its discretion, may pay the fee for the fingerprinting and criminal records background check on behalf of any applicant. Under no circumstances may a member of the State Board of Education, employee of the State Department of Education or any person other than the subject of the criminal records background check disseminate information received through any such checks except insofar as required to fulfill the purposes of this subsection.
(b) If the fingerprinting or criminal records check discloses a felony conviction, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere to a felony of possession or sale of drugs, murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, sexual battery, sex offense listed in Section 45-33-23(g), child abuse, arson, grand larceny, burglary, gratification of lust or aggravated assault which has not been reversed on appeal or for which a pardon has not been granted, the applicant is not eligible to be employed as a school attendance officer. Any employment of an applicant pending the results of the fingerprinting and criminal records check is voidable if the new hire receives a disqualifying criminal records check. However, the State Board of Education, in its discretion, may allow an applicant aggrieved by an employment decision under this subsection to appear before the board, or before a hearing officer designated for that purpose, to show mitigating circumstances that may exist and allow the new hire to be employed as a school attendance officer. The State Board of Education may grant waivers for mitigating circumstances, which may include, but are not necessarily limited to: (i) age at which the crime was committed; (ii) circumstances surrounding the crime; (iii) length of time since the conviction and criminal history since the conviction; (iv) work history; (v) current employment and character references; and (vi) other evidence demonstrating the ability of the person to perform the responsibilities of a school attendance officer competently and that the person does not pose a threat to the health or safety of children.
(c) A member of the State Board of Education or employee of the State Department of Education may not be held liable in any employment discrimination suit in which an allegation of discrimination is made regarding an employment decision authorized under this section.
(3) Each school attendance officer shall possess a college degree with a major in a behavioral science or a related field or shall have no less than three (3) years combined actual experience as a school teacher, school administrator, law enforcement officer possessing such degree, and/or social worker; however, these requirements shall not apply to persons employed as school attendance officers before January 1, 1987. School attendance officers also shall satisfy any additional requirements that may be established by the State Personnel Board for the position of school attendance officer.
(4) It shall be the duty of each school attendance officer to:
(a) Cooperate with any public agency to locate and identify all compulsory-school-age children who are not attending school;
(b) Cooperate with all courts of competent jurisdiction;
(c) Investigate all cases of nonattendance and unlawful absences by compulsory-school-age children not enrolled in a nonpublic school;
(d) Provide appropriate counseling to encourage all school-age children to attend school until they have completed high school;
(e) Attempt to secure the provision of social or welfare services that may be required to enable any child to attend school;
(f) Contact the home or place of residence of a compulsory-school-age child and any other place in which the officer is likely to find any compulsory-school-age child when the child is absent from school during school hours without a valid written excuse from school officials, and when the child is found, the officer shall notify the parents and school officials as to where the child was physically located;
(g) Contact promptly the home of each compulsory-school-age child in the school district within the officer's jurisdiction who is not enrolled in school or is not in attendance at public school and is without a valid written excuse from school officials; if no valid reason is found for the nonenrollment or absence from the school, the school attendance officer shall give written notice to the parent, guardian or custodian of the requirement for the child's enrollment or attendance;
(h) Collect and maintain information concerning absenteeism, dropouts and other attendance-related problems, as may be required by law or the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement; and
(i) Perform all other duties relating to compulsory school attendance established by the State Department of Education or district school attendance supervisor, or both.
(5) While engaged in the performance of his duties, each school attendance officer shall carry on his person a badge identifying him as a school attendance officer under the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement of the State Department of Education and an identification card designed by the State Superintendent of Public Education and issued by the school attendance officer supervisor. Neither the badge nor the identification card shall bear the name of any elected public official.
(6) The State Personnel Board shall develop a salary scale for school attendance officers as part of the variable compensation plan. The various pay ranges of the salary scale shall be based upon factors including, but not limited to, education, professional certification and licensure, and number of years of experience. School attendance officers shall be paid in accordance with this salary scale. The minimum salaries under the scale shall be no less than the following:
(a) For school attendance officers holding a bachelor's degree or any other attendance officer who does not hold such a degree, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $19,650.00
5 - 8 years 21,550.00
9 - 12 years 23,070.00
13 - 16 years 24,590.00
Over 17 years 26,110.00
(b) For school attendance officers holding a license as a social worker, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $20,650.00
5 - 8 years 22,950.00
9 - 12 years 24,790.00
13 - 16 years 26,630.00
17 - 20 years 28,470.00
Over 21 years 30,310.00
(c) For school attendance officers holding a master's degree in a behavioral science or a related field, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $21,450.00
5 - 8 years 24,000.00
9 - 12 years 26,040.00
13 - 16 years 28,080.00
17 - 20 years 30,120.00
Over 21 years 32,160.00
(7) (a) Each school attendance officer employed by a district attorney on June 30, 1998, who became an employee of the State Department of Education on July 1, 1998, shall be awarded credit for personal leave and major medical leave for his continuous service as a school attendance officer under the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. The credit for personal leave shall be in an amount equal to one-third (1/3) of the maximum personal leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Section 25-3-93 during his employment with the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. The credit for major medical leave shall be in an amount equal to one-half (1/2) of the maximum major medical leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Section 25-3-95 during his employment with the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. However, if a district attorney who employed a school attendance officer on June 30, 1998, certifies, in writing, to the State Department of Education that the school attendance officer had accumulated, pursuant to a personal leave policy or major medical leave policy lawfully adopted by the district attorney, a number of days of unused personal leave or major medical leave, or both, which is greater than the number of days to which the school attendance officer is entitled under this paragraph, the State Department of Education shall authorize the school attendance officer to retain the actual unused personal leave or major medical leave, or both, certified by the district attorney, subject to the maximum amount of personal leave and major medical leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Sections 25-3-93 and 25-3-95.
(b) For the purpose of determining the accrual rate for personal leave under Section 25-3-93 and major medical leave under Section 25-3-95, the State Department of Education shall give consideration to all continuous service rendered by a school attendance officer before July 1, 1998, in addition to the service rendered by the school attendance officer as an employee of the department.
(c) In order for a school attendance officer to be awarded credit for personal leave and major medical leave or to retain the actual unused personal leave and major medical leave accumulated by him before July 1, 1998, the district attorney who employed the school attendance officer must certify, in writing, to the State Department of Education the hire date of the school attendance officer. For each school attendance officer employed by the youth or family court or a state agency before being designated an employee of the district attorney who has not had a break in continuous service, the hire date shall be the date that the school attendance officer was hired by the youth or family court or state agency. The department shall prescribe the date by which the certification must be received by the department and shall provide written notice to all district attorneys of the certification requirement and the date by which the certification must be received.
(8) (a) School attendance officers shall maintain regular office hours on a year-round basis; however, during the school term, on those days that teachers in all of the school districts served by a school attendance officer are not required to report to work, the school attendance officer also shall not be required to report to work. (For purposes of this subsection, a school district's school term is that period of time identified as the school term in contracts entered into by the district with licensed personnel.) A school attendance officer shall be required to report to work on any day recognized as an official state holiday if teachers in any school district served by that school attendance officer are required to report to work on that day, regardless of the school attendance officer's status as an employee of the State Department of Education, and compensatory leave may not be awarded to the school attendance officer for working during that day. However, a school attendance officer may be allowed by the school attendance officer's supervisor to use earned leave on such days.
(b) The State Department of Education annually shall designate a period of two (2) consecutive weeks in the summer between school years during which school attendance officers shall not be required to report to work. A school attendance officer who elects to work at any time during that period may not be awarded compensatory leave for such work and may not opt to be absent from work at any time other than during the two (2) weeks designated by the department unless the school attendance officer uses personal leave or major medical leave accrued under Section 25-3-93 or 25-3-95 for such absence.
(9) The State Department of Education shall provide all continuing education and training courses that school attendance officers are required to complete under state law or rules and regulations of the department.
SECTION 6. Section 37-13-107, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-107. (1) Every school attendance officer shall be required annually to attend and complete a comprehensive course of training and education which is provided or approved by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement within the Office of Dropout Prevention. Attendance shall be required beginning with the first training seminar conducted after the school attendance officer is employed as a school attendance officer.
(2) The Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement shall provide or approve a course of training and education for school attendance officers of the state. The course shall consist of at least twelve (12) hours of training per year. The content of the course of training and when and where it is to be conducted shall be approved by the office. A certificate of completion shall be furnished by the State Department of Education to those school attendance officers who complete the course. Each certificate shall be made a permanent record of the school attendance officer supervisor's office where the school attendance officer is employed.
(3) Upon the failure of any person employed as a school attendance officer to receive the certificate of completion from the State Department of Education within the first year of his employment, the person shall not be allowed to carry out any of the duties of a school attendance officer and shall not be entitled to compensation for the period of time during which the certificate has not been obtained.
SECTION 7. Section 37-7-301, Mississippi Code of 1972, 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. The local school board shall be authorized and empowered to promulgate rules and regulations that specify the types of claims and set limits of the dollar amount for payment of claims by the superintendent of schools to be ratified by the board at the next regularly scheduled meeting after payment has been made;
(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 paragraph (v)(i) 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 paragraph (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 paragraph (v)(i). All of the provisions of paragraph (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 37-7-345. 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;
(tt) With respect to any lawful, written obligation of a school district, including, but not limited to, leases (excluding leases of sixteenth section public school trust land), bonds, notes, or other agreement, to agree in writing with the obligee that the State Tax Commission or any state agency, department or commission created under state law may:
(i) Withhold all or any part (as agreed by the school board) of any monies which such local school board is entitled to receive from time to time under any law and which is in the possession of the State Tax Commission, or any state agency, department or commission created under state law; and
(ii) Pay the same over to any financial institution, trustee or other obligee, as directed in writing by the school board, to satisfy all or part of such obligation of the school district.
The school board may make such written agreement to withhold and transfer funds irrevocable for the term of the written obligation and may include in the written agreement any other terms and provisions acceptable to the school board. If the school board files a copy of such written agreement with the State Tax Commission, or any state agency, department or commission created under state law then the State Tax Commission or any state agency, department or commission created under state law shall immediately make the withholdings provided in such agreement from the amounts due the local school board and shall continue to pay the same over to such financial institution, trustee or obligee for the term of the agreement.
This paragraph (tt) shall not grant any extra authority to a school board to issue debt in any amount exceeding statutory limitations on assessed value of taxable property within such school district or the statutory limitations on debt maturities, and shall not grant any extra authority to impose, levy or collect a tax which is not otherwise expressly provided for, and shall not be construed to apply to sixteenth section public school trust land;
(uu) With respect to any matter or transaction that is competitively bid by a school district, to accept from any bidder as a good faith deposit or bid bond or bid surety, the same type of good faith deposit or bid bond or bid surety that may be accepted by the state or any other political subdivision on similar competitively bid matters or transactions. This paragraph (uu) shall not be construed to apply to sixteenth section public school trust land. The school board may authorize the investment of any school district funds in the same kind and manner of investments, including pooled investments, as any other political subdivision, including community hospitals; * * *
(vv) To utilize the alternate method for the conveyance or exchange of unused school buildings and/or land, reserving a partial or other undivided interest in the property, as specifically authorized and provided in Section 37-7-485, Mississippi Code of 1972; and
(ww) To implement a dropout prevention program approved by the Office of Dropout Prevention of the State Department of Education by the 2008-2009 school year.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006.