2012 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representatives Buck (5th), Buck (72nd)
AN ACT TO CREATE THE "VOLUNTARY PRESCHOOL EDUCATION PROGRAM"; TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS USED IN THIS ACT; TO AUTHORIZE THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO ADOPT RULES AS DEEMED NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT THE PROVISIONS OF THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO ESTABLISH THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT FOR STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO ESTABLISH AN APPLICATION PROCESS FOR PARENTS ENROLLING A CHILD IN THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO COORDINATE WITH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO DEVELOP PROCEDURES FOR ENROLLING STUDENTS IN THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO PROHIBIT SCHOOLS FROM DISCRIMINATING AGAINST STUDENTS FOR PURPOSES OF SELECTING STUDENTS FOR ENROLLMENT; TO ESTABLISH THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHERS EMPLOYED BY A PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO ESTABLISH THE MINIMUM PRESCHOOL PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS; TO ESTABLISH THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS SEEKING APPROVAL TO IMPLEMENT A PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO DEVELOP AN APPLICATION AND SELECTION PROCESS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICT PARTICIPATION IN THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT TO TRACK STUDENTS' PROGRESS AND TO MONITOR THE QUALITY OF THE PROGRAM; TO ESTABLISH THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE PRESCHOOL PROGRAM SHALL BE FUNDED; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Voluntary Preschool Education Program."
SECTION 2. As used in this act, the following words shall have the meanings ascribed herein, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(a) "Approved local program" means a school district's program for four-year-old children approved by the State Department of Education to provide high quality preschool instruction.
(b) "Department" means the State Department of Education.
(c) "Preschool program" means the Voluntary Preschool Education Program for four-year-old children created in accordance with this act.
(d) "Approved school district" means a school district that meets the requirements under Section 7 of this act that has been approved by the department to participate in the preschool program.
(e) "Board" means the State Board of Education.
SECTION 3. (1) There is established a statewide preschool program for four-year-old children for the purpose of the providing an opportunity for all young children in the state to enter school ready to learn by expanding voluntary access to quality preschool curricula.
(2) The State Board of Education shall adopt any rules as it deems necessary to implement the Voluntary Preschool Education Program as provided in this act.
SECTION 4. (1) A child who is a resident of Mississippi and is four (4) years of age on or before September 15 of a school year shall be eligible to enroll in the Voluntary Preschool Education Program under this section. If space and funding are available, an approved school district may enroll a younger or older child in the preschool program. However, the child shall not be counted for state funding purposes.
(2) (a) Each parent enrolling a child in the preschool program must complete and submit an application to the Department of Human Services.
(b) The application must be submitted on forms prescribed by the Department of Human Services and must be accompanied by a certified copy of the child's birth certificate, unless the department authorizes alternative methods for submitting proof of the child's age in lieu of a certified copy of the child's birth certificate. If a child is eligible as put forth in subsection (1) of this section, the parent's application for enrollment shall be approved.
(c) The Department of Human Services shall coordinate with local school districts in the development of procedures for enrolling children in preschool programs delivered by public schools.
(3) The Department of Human Services shall provide each parent enrolling a child in the preschool program with a profile of every public school delivering the program within the county in which the child resides. The profile shall be provided to parents in a format prescribed by the department, and must include, at a minimum:
(a) The provider's school services;
(b) The curriculum of instruction administered by the program;
(c) The instructor credentials; and
(d) The instructor-to-student ratio.
(4) A parent may enroll his or her child in any public school delivering the program within the county in which the child resides, subject to the availability of space. No public school shall discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, socioeconomic status, proficiency in the English language or academic achievement when determining whether a child can enroll in its preschool program. The only factor to be considered when making a decision on student enrollment is whether the school has space for the child.
SECTION 5. (1) An individual serving as a teacher in the preschool program must meet all of the following qualifications:
(a) The individual is either employed by or under contract with the school district implementing the program;
(b) The individual meets the requirements for certification and licensure put forth by the Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development under Section 37-3-2;
(c) The individual possesses a bachelor's or graduate degree from an accredited college or university with a major in early childhood education or other appropriate major identified in rule by the department; and
(d) The individual submits to and passes the established criteria of the criminal background check and fingerprinting requirements of Section 37-9-17.
(2) A teacher in the preschool program shall collaborate with other agencies, organizations, and boards in the community to further the program's capacity to meet the diverse needs of the children taught by the teacher and the families of the children, such as needs for early care, health, and human services. In addition, a teacher in the preschool program shall work to maintain relationships with each child's family in order to enhance the child's development in all settings by collaborating with providers of parent education and family support opportunities.
SECTION 6. The State Board of Education shall adopt rules which shall be used to determine whether or not a local program implemented by an approved school district qualifies as an approved local program. In order to form a basis for its determination the board must define the following preschool program requirements:
(a) The maximum and minimum instructor-to-student ratios and class sizes;
(b) Applicable state and federal program standards;
(c) Student learning standards;
(d) Provisions for the integration of children from other state and federally funded preschools;
(e) Collaboration with participating families, early care providers, and community partners, including but not limited to:
(i) Head start programs;
(ii) Licensed child care centers;
(iii) Registered child development homes;
(iv) Area local education agencies;
(v) Child care resource and referral services;
(vi) Early childhood special education programs;
(vii) Services funded by Title I of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965; and
(viii) Family support programs;
(f) A minimum of ten (10) hours per week of instruction delivered on the skills and knowledge included in the student learning standards developed for the preschool program;
(g) Parental involvement in the local program; and
(h) Provision for ensuring that children receiving care from other child care arrangements are allowed to participate in the preschool program with minimal disruption due to transportation and movement from one site to another.
SECTION 7. (1) School districts implementing the preschool program shall be required to:
(a) Identify methods of demonstrating community readiness to implement high-quality instruction in a local program;
(b) Submit a collaborative program proposal that demonstrates the involvement of multiple community stakeholders including but not limited to, and only as applicable:
(ii) The school district;
(iii) Accredited nonpublic schools and faith-based representatives;
(iv) The local education agency;
(v) Business representatives;
(vi) Head start programs;
(vii) Center-based and home-based providers of child care services;
(viii) The Department of Human Services;
(ix) The State Health Department, and
(x) Economic development programs;
(c) Provide evidence of a public hearing on the proposed programming and written documentation of collaboration agreements between the school district, existing community providers, and other community stakeholders addressing operational procedures and other critical measures;
(d) Provide services to four-year-old children who are enrolled in a child care center, child development home or in an existing public or private preschool program and who are eligible for enrollment in the local preschool program;
(e) Participate in data collection and performance measurement processes; and
(f) Require professional development for school district preschool teachers employed by the school district.
SECTION 8. (1) The State Department of Education shall implement an application and selection process for school district participation in the preschool program that includes, but is not limited to the enrollment requirements provided under Section 7 of this section.
(2) The department shall track the progress of students served by a school district preschool program and the students' performance in elementary and secondary education.
(3) The department shall implement procedures to monitor the quality of the programming provided under the preschool program.
(4) The State Board of Education, in collaboration with the department, shall ensure that the administrative rules adopted to support the preschool program emphasize that:
(a) Children's access to the program is voluntary;
(b) The preschool foundation aid provided to a school district under the authority of Section 9 of this act is based upon the enrollment of eligible students in the school district's local program regardless of whether an eligible student is a resident of the school district; and
(c) Agreements entered into by a school district for the provision of programming in settings other than the school district's facilities are between the school district and the private provider.
SECTION 9. (1) As used in this section the following words shall have the meanings ascribed herein, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(a) "Base year" means the school year ending the calendar year in which a budget is certified.
(b) "Budget year" means the school year beginning during the calendar year in which a budget is certified.
(c) "Per-pupil expenditure" means the average cost to the State of Mississippi of educating a student in a regular public school program for a year, which shall be determined by the department.
(d) "Eligible student" means a child who meets eligibility requirements under Section 4 of this act.
(e) "Preschool budget enrollment" means the figure that is equal to fifty percent (50%) of the actual enrollment of eligible students in the preschool program provided by an approved school district on October 1 of the base year, or the first Monday in October if October 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
(f) "Preschool foundation aid" means the product of the per-pupil expenditure for the budget year multiplied by the school district's preschool budget enrollment.
(2) (a) State funding provided under the preschool program shall be based upon the enrollment of eligible students in the preschool program provided by an approved school district.
(b) An approved school district may authorize expenditures for the district's preschool program from any of the revenue sources available to the district, provided that the expenditures are within the permitted uses of the revenue source. In addition, the use of the revenue source for preschool or prekindergarten programs must be approved before any expenditure from the revenue source for the district's approved local program.
(c) Funding provided under the preschool program is intended to supplement, not supplant, existing public funding for preschool program.
(3) (a) Preschool foundation aid funding shall not be commingled with other state aid payments made to a school district and shall be accounted for by the local school district separately from other state aid payments. Each school district shall maintain a separate listing within its budget for preschool foundation aid payments received and expenditures made, and shall certify to the department that preschool foundation aid funding received by the school district was used to supplement monies otherwise received and used by the school district for preschool programs.
(b) Preschool foundation aid funding shall not be used for the costs of constructing a facility in connection with an approved local program.
(4) The receipt of funding by a school district for the purposes of this section, the need for additional funding for the purposes of this section, or the enrollment count of eligible students under this section shall not be construed as an unusual circumstance, creating an unusual need for additional funds or qualifying under any other circumstances that may be used by the school budget review committee to grant supplemental aid.
(5) (a) To be included as an eligible student in the enrollment count of the preschool program provided by an approved school district, a child must be four (4) years of age by September 15 in the base year and attending the school district's approved local program.
(b) The enrollment count of eligible students shall not include a child who is served by a program already receiving state or federal funds for the purpose of the provision of four-year-old preschool programs while the child is being served by the program. Such a preschool program includes but is not limited to federal Head Start Programs or those services funded by Title I of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
(6) (a) For the initial school year for which an approved school district receives approval and implements the preschool program, funding for the preschool foundation aid payable to that school district shall be paid from the appropriation made for that school year in subsection (9) of this section or in another appropriation made for purposes of this section. For that school year, the preschool foundation aid payable to the school district shall be the product of the per-pupil expenditure for the school year multiplied by sixty percent (60%) of the school district's eligible student enrollment on the date in the school year determined by rule.
(b) For budget years subsequent to the initial school year for which an approved school district receives initial approval and implements the preschool program, funding for the preschool foundation aid payable to that school district shall be paid from the appropriation made in subsection (9) of this section. Continuation of a school district's participation in the preschool program for a second or subsequent budget year is subject to the approval of the department based upon the school district's compliance with accountability provisions and the department's on-site review of the school district's implementation of the preschool program.
(7) Preschool foundation aid shall be paid as part of the state aid payments made to school districts in accordance with subsection (9) of this section.
(8) Except as otherwise provided by law for a fiscal year, of the amount appropriated for that fiscal year for payment of preschool foundation aid statewide, the department may use an amount sufficient to fund up to three (3) full-time equivalent positions which shall be in addition to the number of positions authorized for the fiscal year, as necessary to provide administration and oversight of the preschool program.
(9) (a) The Legislature shall appropriate each year from the State General Fund an amount necessary to pay the preschool foundation aid under this section.
(b) All state aid paid under this act, unless otherwise stated, shall be paid in monthly installments beginning on September 15 of a budget year and ending on or about June 15 of the budget year.
(c) All monies received by a school district from the state under this section shall be deposited in the operating fund of the school district.
SECTION 10. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2012.