Bryant signs historic education legislation - - Jackson, MS

Bryant signs historic education legislation

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Flanked by lawmakers, education leaders and a group of Northwest Rankin High school students, Governor Phil Bryant signed his name to four pieces of legislation which he says will change the state's educational system.

"The signing of this legislation will begin a new era in public education," said Bryant.

As part of his "Education Works" agenda, with his signature, those bills are now law. The first requires high schools with graduation rates lower than 80 percent to submit a plan for restructure. It also sets up a pilot program for teacher merit pay. State Superintendent of Education Lynn House says they all hold potential for transformation.

"There may be some nuances about which we're not necessarily thrilled, but bottom line, it's all about one thing and that's the students," said House.

A separate bill now establishes a third grade reading gate, which will prevent a third grader from moving forward if they can't read at grade level. Bryant says that's because literacy problems are plaguing the state.

"We think this will dramatically increase our children's ability to read proficiency," said Bryant.

It's not just current students being impacted. Anyone wanting to become a teacher must have a 2.75 GPA on pre-major coursework and either make a 21 on the ACT or pass the PRAXIS exam. For high school students with at least a 3.5 GPA and at least a 28 ACT score, a scholarship now grants them a free ride in college for teaching majors. The most debated of all the education initiatives is charter schools which will now be allowed to set up freely across the state in districts ranked "D" or "F."

"The children and their parents must have the ultimate responsibility for their own education," said Bryant.

The city of Morehead, in Sunflower County, where Governor Bryant is from has already expressed interest in becoming the first city to set up a charter school.

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