2012 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representatives Byrd, Aldridge, Boyd, Brown (20th), Carpenter, Chism, Gipson, Martinson, McLeod, Moore, Pigott, Rogers (61st), Weathersby, Gardner, Miles, Bounds, Howell, Turner, Barker, DeBar, Dixon
AN ACT TO ESTABLISH THE MISSISSIPPI DYSLEXIA THERAPY SCHOLARSHIP FOR STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA PROGRAM; TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS USED IN THIS ACT; TO PROVIDE FOR STUDENT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR RECEIPT OF A SCHOLARSHIP AND RESTRICTING ELIGIBILITY THEREFOR; TO PROVIDE FOR THE TERM OF THE SCHOLARSHIP; TO STIPULATE THE OBLIGATIONS OF PARENTS, STUDENTS AND SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS; TO PRESCRIBE THE DUTIES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REGARDING THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM; TO PROVIDE THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WITH THE AUTHORITY TO VERIFY THE ELIGIBILITY OF NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS AND TO ESTABLISH THE PROCESS FOR NOTIFICATIONS OF VIOLATIONS; TO AUTHORIZE THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO DENY, SUSPEND OR REVOKE A SCHOOL'S PARTICIPATION IN THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM AND THE PROCEDURES TAKEN WITH RESPECT THEREFOR; TO REQUIRE THAT ALL COMPULSORY-SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN BE SCREENED FOR DYSLEXIA DURING THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE SPRING OF KINDERGARTEN AND THE FALL OF GRADE 1 AND OTHER APPROPRIATE TIMES AS DEEMED NECESSARY IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF THIS STATE; TO ESTABLISH THE PROCEDURES TO BE FOLLOWED IN SCREENING AND EVALUATION OF STUDENTS FOR DYSLEXIA AND RELATED DISORDERS AND PRESCRIBING WHO SHALL ADMINISTER THE SCREENING AND EVALUATION; TO REQUIRE THAT SCHOOL DIAGNOSTICIANS RECEIVE ADDITIONAL TRAINING IN THE EVALUATION AND DIAGNOSIS OF DYSLEXIA; TO REQUIRE THAT STUDENTS RECEIVE COMPREHENSIVE ACADEMIC EVALUATIONS BY TRAINED DIAGNOSTICIANS IN THE DIAGNOSIS OF DYSLEXIA IF SCREENING INDICATES RISK OF DYSLEXIA; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO SUBMIT AN ANNUAL REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE SUMMARIZING STUDENT PERFORMANCE, STUDENT ASSESSMENTS, FUNDING AND ANY RECOMMENDED CHANGES; TO PRESCRIBE APPROPRIATE DYSLEXIA QUALIFICATIONS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE AND INSTRUCTIONAL PERSONNEL; TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO SERVE AS THE LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY FOR THOSE SCHOOLS; TO REQUIRE THE STATE TO PAY DIRECTLY TO THE SCHOOL ANY FEDERAL OR STATE AID ATTRIBUTABLE TO A STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY ATTENDING THE SCHOOL; TO REQUIRE THE SCHOOL TO COMPLY WITH THE ANNUAL AUDIT AND BUDGET SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS PRESCRIBED BY LAW IN TITLE 37, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. As used in this act, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(a) "Board" means the State Board of Education.
(b) "Department" means the State Department of Education.
(c) "Dyslexia" means a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin, characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities, which typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction, and secondary consequences which may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
(d) "Dyslexia therapy" means an appropriate specialized dyslexia instructional program that is delivered by a Mississippi Department of Education licensed dyslexia therapist which is scientific, research-based, and is offered in a small group setting to teach students the components of reading instruction which include:
(i) Phonemic awareness to enable students to detect, segment, blend and manipulate sounds in spoken language;
(ii) Graphophonemic knowledge (phonics) for teaching the letter-sound plan of English;
(iii) The entire structure of the English language that encompasses morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics;
(iv) Linguistic instruction directed toward proficiency and fluency with the patterns of language so that words and sentences are carriers of meaning; and
(v) Strategies that students use for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency and comprehension.
These components shall be taught using instructional approaches that include explicit, direct instruction which is systematic, sequential and cumulative, following a logical plan of presenting the alphabetic principle commensurate with the students' needs, with no assumption of prior skills or language knowledge; individualized to meet the specific learning needs of each individual student in a small group setting; intensive, highly concentrated instruction that maximizes student engagement and uses specialized methods and materials; meaning-based instruction directed toward purposeful reading and writing, with an emphasis on comprehension and composition; and multisensory instruction that incorporates the simultaneous use of two (2) or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and student practice.
(e) "Dyslexia therapist" means a professional who has completed training in a department approved dyslexia therapy training program attaining an AA license in dyslexia therapy or a professional participating in a state approved dyslexia therapy training program to attain a AA license in dyslexia therapy.
(f) "Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program" means a scholarship to provide the option to attend a public school other than the one to which assigned, or to provide a scholarship to a nonpublic school of choice, for students in Grade 1 through Grade 6 diagnosed with dyslexia in order to receive comprehensive multisensory dyslexia therapy delivered by holders of an appropriate license in dyslexia therapy issued by the department.
(g) "School" means any public or state accredited nonpublic special purpose school that provides a specific learning environment that provides comprehensive dyslexia therapy instruction delivered by dyslexia therapists licensed by the department providing highly qualified education and intervention services to children diagnosed with the primary learning disability of dyslexia.
SECTION 2. The Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program is established to provide the option to attend a public school other than the one to which assigned, or to provide a scholarship to a nonpublic school of choice, for students with a diagnosis of dyslexia for whom a 504 accommodation plan has been written in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education as required under Section 5 of this act. Students in Grades 1-6 who have been properly screened and diagnosed with dyslexia or related disorders shall be eligible to receive scholarship assistance under this program.
SECTION 3. (1) Parents may exercise the option to remove their child from a traditional public school setting to be enrolled in a public or nonpublic school which meets the standards for appropriate specific instruction designed to meet the unique learning needs of young dyslexic students. The objectives of such school shall be:
(a) To emphasize the importance of early intervention; and
(b) To provide intensive high-quality instruction of students in reading, spelling, writing, language arts, phonological awareness and fluency training, but shall not preclude instruction in mathematics, social studies, science, art, music and physical education based on the curriculum requirements of the State Department of Education.
(2) The parent of a public school student with dyslexia may request and receive from the state a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for the child to enroll in and attend a nonpublic school in accordance with this section if:
(a) The student has spent the previous school year in attendance at a Mississippi public school or any other state approved nonpublic school in the state that emphasizes instruction in dyslexia intervention; or
(b) The parent has obtained acceptance for admission of the student to a nonpublic school that is eligible for the program under Section 10 of this act and has requested from the department a scholarship within thirty (30) days before the date of the first scholarship payment. The request must be through a communication directly to the department in a manner that creates a written or electronic record of the request and the date of receipt of the request. The Department of Education must notify the district of the parent's intent upon receipt of the parent's request.
SECTION 4. (1) A student is not eligible for a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship while he or she is:
(a) Enrolled in a school operating for the purpose of providing educational services to youth in Department of Juvenile Justice commitment programs;
(b) Participating in a home-school education program;
(c) Participating in a virtual school, correspondence school, or distance learning program that receives state funding under the student's participation unless the participation is limited to no more than two (2) courses per school year;
(d) Not having regular and direct contact with his or her private school teachers at the school's physical location.
(2) (a) For purposes of continuity of educational choice, a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship shall remain in force until the student returns to a public school or completes Grade 6, whichever occurs first.
(b) Upon reasonable notice to the department and the school district, the student's parent may remove the student from the nonpublic school and place the student in a public school in accordance with this section.
SECTION 5. (1) (a) By April 1 of each year and within ten (10) days after a 504 accommodation plan meeting, a school district shall notify the parent of the student of all options available under this section, inform the parent of the availability of the department's telephone hotline and Internet website for additional information on Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarships and offer that student's parent an opportunity to enroll the student in another public or nonpublic school.
(b) The parent is not required to accept the offer of enrolling in another public school in lieu of requesting a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship to a nonpublic school. However, if the parent chooses the public school option, the student may continue attending a public school chosen by the parent until the student completes Grade 6.
(c) If the parent chooses a public school within the district, the school district shall provide transportation to the public school selected by the parent. However, if the parent chooses a public school in another district, the parent is responsible to provide transportation to the school of choice.
(2) (a) Each appropriate educational entity shall provide for the development of a 504 Plan for each dyslexic student eligible for educational services or equipment, or both, under Sections 37-23-1 through 37-23-157. In developing the written 504 Plan for each dyslexia student, there shall be a presumption that proficiency in speech, reading and writing are essential for the student to achieve optimal educational progress.
(b) For a student with dyslexia who does not have a 504 Plan, the school district must complete a 504 Plan that provides the student accommodations to achieve optimal educational progress.
(c) (i) Within ten (10) school days after it receives notification of a parent's request for a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship, a school district must notify the student's parent if a 504 Plan has not been completed and inform the parent that the district is required to complete a 504 Plan within thirty (30) days after receiving notice of the parent's request for a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship. This notice should include the required completion date for the 504 Plan.
(ii) The school district must complete a 504 Plan for any student who is participating in the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program and must notify the department of the student's 504 Plan within thirty (30) days after receiving notification of a request to participate in the scholarship program. The school district must provide the student's parent with the student's 504 Plan within ten (10) school days after its completion.
(iii) The department shall notify the nonpublic school of the amount of the scholarship within ten (10) days after receiving the school district's notification of the parent's request for a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship.
(iv) A school district may change a 504 Plan only if the change is to correct a technical, typographical, or calculation error.
(3) A school district shall provide notification to parents of the availability of a 504 Plan update every year of each student who receives a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship.
(4) If the parent chooses the nonpublic school option and the student is accepted by the nonpublic school pending the availability of a space for the student, the parent of the student must notify the department thirty (30) days before the first scholarship payment and before entering the nonpublic school in order to be eligible for the scholarship when a space becomes available for the student in the nonpublic school.
(5) The parent of a student may choose, as an alternative, to enroll the student in and transport the student to a public school in an adjacent school district which has available space and has a program with dyslexia services that provide daily dyslexia therapy sessions delivered by a department licensed dyslexia therapist, and that school district shall accept the student and report the student for purposes of the district's funding under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
(6) For a student who participates in the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program whose parent requests that the student take the statewide assessments, the local school district in which the student attends nonpublic school shall provide locations and times for the student to take all statewide assessments as requested by the parent.
SECTION 6. A parent who applies for a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship is exercising his or her parental option to place his or her child in a nonpublic school. Each participating parent and student shall adhere to the following:
(a) The parent must select the nonpublic school and apply for the admission of his or her child;
(b) The parent must have requested the scholarship at least thirty (30) days before the date of the first scholarship payment;
(c) Any student participating in the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program must remain in attendance throughout the school year unless excused by the school for illness or other good cause;
(d) Each parent and each student has an obligation to the nonpublic school to comply with the private school's published policies;
(e) If the parent requests that the student participating in the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program take all statewide assessments, the parent is responsible for transporting the student to the assessment site designated by the school district; and
(f) Upon receipt of a scholarship warrant, the parent to whom the warrant is made must restrictively endorse the warrant to the nonpublic school for deposit into the account of the nonpublic school. The parent may not designate any entity or individual associated with the participating nonpublic school as the parent's attorney in fact to endorse a scholarship warrant. A participant who fails to comply with this paragraph forfeits the scholarship.
SECTION 7. (1) The maximum scholarship granted per eligible student with dyslexia shall be an amount equivalent to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program base student cost. (2) (a) The nonpublic school under this program shall report to the Mississippi Department of Education the number of students with dyslexia who are enrolled in nonpublic schools on the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarships as of September 30 of each year in order to determine funding for the subsequent year. Funds may not be transferred from any funding provided to the Mississippi School for the Deaf and the Blind for program participants who are eligible under Section 3 of this act.
(b) The Mississippi Department of Education will disburse payments to nonpublic schools under this program in twelve (12) substantially equal installments. The initial payment shall be made after department verification of admission acceptance, and subsequent payments shall be made upon verification of continued enrollment and attendance at the nonpublic school.
SECTION 8. (1) (a) Each local school district shall adopt a policy to ensure that students will be screened in the Spring of kindergarten and the Fall of Grade 1. The component of the screening must include:
(i) Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness;
(ii) Sound symbol recognition;
(iii) Alphabet knowledge;
(iv) Decoding skills;
(v) Encoding skills; and
(vi) Rapid naming.
(b) If a student fails the screener, the parent will be notified of the results of the screener. Subsequent dyslexia evaluations may be administered by licensed professionals, including:
(i) Psychologists, licensed under Chapter 31, Title 73, Mississippi Code of 1972;
(ii) Psychometrists, licensed by the Mississippi Department of Education; or
(iii) Speech Language Pathologists, licensed under Chapter 38, Title 73, Mississippi Code of 1972.
(2) The screening of all compulsory-school-age children enrolled in each local public school district for dyslexia required by subsection (1)(a) of this section shall in no manner nullify or defeat the requirements of the pilot programs adopted by the State Department of Education to test certain students enrolled or enrolling in public schools for dyslexia under Section 37-23-15.
SECTION 9. (1) To be eligible to participate in the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program, a nonpublic school must:
(a) Be a state accredited special purpose school;
(b) Provide to the department all documentation required for a student's participation, including the nonpublic school's and student's fee schedules, at least thirty (30) days before the first quarterly scholarship payment is made for the student.
(c) Be academically accountable to the parent for meeting the educational needs of the student by:
(i) At a minimum, annually providing to the parent a written explanation of the student's progress; and
(ii) Cooperating with the scholarship student whose parent chooses to participate in the statewide assessments; and
(d) Maintain in this state a physical location where a scholarship student regularly attends classes.
(2) The inability of a nonpublic school to meet the requirements of this subsection shall constitute a basis for the ineligibility of the nonpublic school to participate in the scholarship program as determined by the department.
SECTION 10. (1) The department shall publicize information regarding the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship on the department's official website.
(2) Annually, by December 15, report to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives the Department of Education's actions with respect to implementing accountability in the scholarship program under this section, any substantiated allegations or violations of law or rule by an eligible nonpublic school under this program concerning the enrollment and attendance of students, the credentials of teachers, background screening of teachers, and teachers' fingerprinting results and the corrective action taken by the Department of Education.
SECTION 11. (1) The State Board of Education in conjunction with each nonpublic school and local school board operating under the provisions of this act, may:
(a) Extend the school day or length of the scholastic year;
(b) Develop and establish a curriculum that is consistent with the Mississippi Curriculum Framework in the subject areas of mathematics, social studies, science, music, art and physical education; and
(c) Select, purchase and use textbooks, literature and other instructional materials that would improve educational attainment by students in the school, subject to the approval of the board.
(2) The qualified personnel to facilitate the educational process of learning and instruction for children with dyslexia who attend the schools shall consist of the following:
(a) An administrator or director with additional training in the characteristics of dyslexia;
(b) A dyslexic therapist licensed by the department in dyslexia therapy;
(c) Dyslexia therapists in training participating in a department approved dyslexia therapy graduate internship program; and
(d) Licensed elementary teachers under the supervision of a state department licensed dyslexia therapist. The qualified personnel to administer testing and evaluate for dyslexia in a public or nonpublic school shall consist of the following:
(i) A psychometrist with additional training in the diagnosis of dyslexia and associated disorders; and
(ii) Speech-language pathologists with additional training in the diagnosis of dyslexia.
SECTION 12. Teachers and other school personnel shall be subject to criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools under Section 37-9-17(2) and (3).
SECTION 13. (1) Each school providing instruction to children with dyslexia shall certify to the State Department of Education its student enrollment in the same manner as local school districts.
(2) The department shall direct the proportionate share of monies generated under federal and state categorical aid programs to the participating school for serving students eligible for the aid. The state shall ensure that each school is treated equitably in the calculation and disbursement of all federal and state categorical aid program dollars. Each school participating in the scholarship program shall comply with all reporting requirements to receive the aid.
(3) (a) Each school shall adhere to generally accepted accounting principles as promulgated by nationally recognized professional organizations.
(b) Each school shall have its financial records audited annually, at the end of each fiscal year, either by the State Auditor and shall file a copy of each audit report and accompanying management letter with the board by July 30.
(4) Nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any person or organization from providing funding or other assistance to the establishment or operation of any school authorized under this act, except religious or sectarian organizations. The State Board of Education, acting on behalf of the participating schools, is authorized to accept gifts, donations, and grants of any kind made to a participating school and to expend or use such gifts, donations, and grants in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the donor; however, no gift, donation, or grant may be accepted if subject to a condition that is contrary to any provision of state law or board rule.
SECTION 14. No liability shall arise on the part of the state based on the award or use of a Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship.
SECTION 15. The inclusion of eligible nonpublic schools within options available to Mississippi public school students does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, its officers, or any school district to impose any additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those reasonably necessary to enforce requirements expressly set forth in this section.
SECTION 16. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2012.