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JACKSON – The Senate Education Committee today passed sweeping education reforms that will raise academic achievement, allow school choice and improve the graduation rate statewide.

The committee amended House Bill 890 with a comprehensive education reform package that includes proposals from Gov. Phil Bryant’s Education Works agenda such as improving reading skills in first through third grades and strengthening teacher quality. The bill also offers a compromise on public charter schools. The bill returns to the House for concurrence.

“This session is dedicated to improving the academic performance of students and the quality of public schools, and this bill gives the Legislature the opportunity to accomplish those goals and positively impact education in Mississippi for generations,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said.

The bill also measures literacy skills for students in Kindergarten through third grade, provides intervention programs for students needing assistance and requires third-grade students to meet reading standards before moving to the fourth grade.

“This bill is a comprehensive education package that can revitalize public schools in Mississippi,” said Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford. “This compromise brings together ideas from across the aisle and across the Capitol to make a difference in education.”

Other features of the amended bill from Gov. Bryant’s Education Works agenda include:

· Require students entering teacher education programs to have a score of 21 on the ACT and a 3.0 GPA.

· Provide a $15,000 scholarship for students in a teacher education program, who score at least a 28 on the ACT and a 3.5 GPA.

· Require high schools with graduation rates lower than 80 percent to submit an improvement plan to the state Department of Education.

The amended bill includes a compromise on establishing public charter schools in Mississippi, including features of the House proposal to allow a maximum of 15 new public charter schools annually. Public charter schools must document community support before opening, and operators must have a track record of academic success at other public charter school locations.

The Senate proposal would allow school boards in districts rated as A or B to decide on whether to allow parents to have a voice in their children’s education by granting the boards the authority to approve public charter school applications. Districts rated D and F would only need approval from the state’s independent authorizing board.

In C-rated districts, public charter schools would have to gain approval from both the school board and state authorizing board through 2016. At that point, public charter schools in C-rated districts would be authorized solely by the state’s authorizing board.

The bill also allows school districts to convert existing schools into public charter schools through a partnership with a nonprofit public charter school operator.

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