Lawmakers, superintendents discuss state education policy

Lawmakers, superintendents discuss state education policy

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - State lawmakers from both the House and Senate education committees and eight Pine Belt superintendents discussed priorities and plans for public education in Mississippi Tuesday.

The William Carey College of Education hosted Senate education chairman Sen. Gray Tollison, (R) Oxford, Senate education committee member Sen. John Polk, (R) Hattiesburg and House education chairman Rep. John Moore to answer questions from district leaders and education students ranging from school choice to a state teacher shortage.

"I'm glad that we're talking about teacher shortage," said Matt Dillon, Petal Public Schools superintendent. "I think that is going to be something critical, and I'm glad that that something that they're talking about and having conversations."

Tollison said Mississippi raised starting teacher pay three years ago as an incentive to try to help the problem, but said he and Moore are looking to bring experienced educators back into classrooms.

"A system of using our retied teachers back in the classrooms as trainers or in some capacity, and I know my committee will be looking at that," Moore said.

Another thing they said they'll be considering this session is giving voters control over school boards.

"They would be all elected, and that we would align them with the statewide general elections," Tollison said. "The next election would be 2019. I think there's a lot of interest in raising awareness of who's on the school boards."

Moore said, "The voters control everything that has to do with government other than K-12 (education). On one day every four years, the governor, the lieutenant governor and all the other statewide officials, all 174 of us, every county elected official throughout the state other than your circuit judges and chancery judges, down to the constable and the (justices of the peace) can all be thrown out of office in one day. The one thing that voters cannot do in Mississippi is change that school board."

Tollison said he hopes that change passes this year.