Lawmakers in the Mississippi House of Representatives are considering a bill that would place chronically failing school districts into a new statewide district in hopes of improving academic performance.
House Bill 989 would establish the Achievement School District. Essentially, the state would take over any school district that has been rated an “F” for two consecutive years and place them into one new statewide district.
The program has been in development with the state Department of Education and lawmakers. Republican Representative Charles Busby of Pascagoula says control of the district would go to a newly established board.
“It would consolidate these school districts into a single achievement school district that would be controlled by a board,” Busby says. “A seven-member board with appointments by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Mississippi Department of Education.”
Any district that's placed under the Achievement School District would stay there until they were rated a “C” district for at least five years. If that happens, parents and local school officials can vote on whether they want to remove the schools from the Achievement District.
But, some lawmakers are concerned that placing districts, especially predominantly African American ones, under state control would be establishing a new form of segregation. Democratic Representative Greg Holloway says he’s not in favor of the bill currently.
“I’m concerned that you have put a label on these kids, first of all, saying that these are al failing students in failing school districts,” Holloway says. “Then you add the component that these kids are African Americans, what kind of message is that sending? It seems as though we’re doing something, we’re going backward.”
Under the law, before any district could be consolidated, the state Department of Education must first spend one year establishing and planning how the district will operate.