Governor Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 2571, a measure that includes multiple technical changes for public school districts in Mississippi.
The bill includes language to amend state rules regarding withdrawal of school accreditation in A and B-rated districts. Under the new law, students in schools that lose accreditation for any reason other than academic failure or financial accountability can continue to participate in extracurricular activities. Previous policy had required curtailment of all extracurricular activities, regardless of whether or not students were performing well academically. Earlier this year, Gov. Bryant and the Mississippi Board of Education established an administrative policy that allowed the B-rated Scott County School District to maintain its accreditation while non-academic violations stemming from district leadership were addressed. Students in the district were also allowed to continue participating in extracurricular activities.
The bill also adjusts policy that regulates the purchasing of school supplies. The new law will enable eligible teachers to obtain procurement cards earlier and more efficiently, allowing them more control over when and how supplies are purchased for their classrooms.
"With this change, individual teachers will have more control over how to spend supply dollars in their classrooms, and they will receive those funds in a more efficient manner," Gov. Bryant said.
Senate Bill 2571 also includes changes that allow students participating in dual enrollment programs to receive credit for courses that are included in the state's subject-area testing requirements. Through dual enrollment, students who are at risk of not graduating high school can enroll in career technical courses at a community or junior college while completing the requirements for a high school diploma. The new law allows those students to receive credit for taking Algebra I, biology, English II and U.S. History through the dual enrollment process. The students are still required to pass each required subject area test.
Before sending the bill to Gov. Bryant, the Legislature added an amendment to reverse a school start date decision lawmakers had agreed upon in 2012. Under the previous agreement, lawmakers required public schools to start no earlier than the third Monday in August.
"Under Senate Bill 2571, local school districts will have the authority to set their start dates. I encourage all districts to consider the needs of students, families and communities when developing their calendars. Inconsistent school start and end dates can have an impact on enrollment in summer school programs for both students and teachers and can also have an impact on tourism throughout the state," Gov. Bryant said.
"Had the Legislature chosen to send me the school start date change in a stand-alone bill instead of attaching it to a measure that includes many beneficial education changes, I might have taken different action with regard to that provision."