Governor Barbour

April 8, 2009


New law, grant will help improve low-performing schools

Governor Haley Barbour today signed into law Senate Bill 2628, known as the Children First Act of 2009, increasing accountability standards and strengthening academic achievement for Mississippi’s public schools.

Governor Barbour also announced a $150,000 grant from the National Governors Association to develop methods for turning around chronically low-performing schools in Mississippi and three other states.

“To give all our children the best chance at a bright future, our schools must perform to the best of their abilities,” Governor Barbour said. “The Children First Act allows the state to step into troubled districts relatively early and begin their turnaround. I appreciate the hard work of the Legislature and Dr. Bounds and his team in crafting a law that continues to move Mississippi forward.”

The Children First Act will have the greatest impact on those school districts considered “failing,” which is an academic designation determined by the State Board of Education. Among the provisions in the legislation are: allowing the removal of superintendents and school board members when a school district has been considered “failing” for two consecutive school years, the creation of a Mississippi Recovery School district to govern districts that have been taken over by the state and requiring school district officials to report to the State Board of Public Accountancy when an audit is thought to be deficient in any manner by a financial advisor.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Hank Bounds praised the Children First Act as a valuable tool to improve school districts facing challenges in the classroom.

“Regardless of some of the significant obstacles our boys and girls are facing, I truly believe they are all eager to learn and more than capable of excelling in our schools,” Superintendent Bounds said. “The Children First Act seeks to ensure that the leaders of all our schools believe that too and are taking appropriate actions to make sure all children receive a first-rate education.”

Governor Barbour also announced today Mississippi has received a $150,000 grant from the National Governors Association to craft a plan for improving chronically low-performing schools. Mississippi will be one of four states to develop a national model for improving schools noted as low performing annually. The grant is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“In Mississippi, we are working diligently to improve our schools at all levels,” Governor Barbour said. “This grant will help those schools with the greatest challenges. I appreciate the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mass Insight and the National Governors Association for their help tackling this issue.”

The grant will complement the Children’s First Act of 2009. The funds will help design policies to turn around schools with lagging performance. The work will be guided by a 15-member Statewide Policy Team, whose members include: Dr. Hank Bounds, State Superintendent of Education; Videt Carmichael, chairman of the Senate Education Committee; Cecil Brown, chairman of the House Education Committee; Charles McClelland, State Board of Education member; Dennis Dupree, Superintendent of Clarksdale School District; Dr. Jason Dean, Chief Operating Officer of Momentum Mississippi; Steve Williams of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation; Mayo Flynt, President of AT&T; Kelle Barfield, vice president of public affairs for Entergy Nuclear; Oleta Fitzgerald, regional director of the Children’s Defense Fund; Kevin Gilbert, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators; Dr. Mike Waldrop, executive director of the Mississippi School Boards Association; Dr. Sam Bounds, executive director of the Mississippi Association School Superintendents; Dr. Lynn House, assistant commissioner of Academic and Student Affairs; Deb Biggers, director of the Office of Budget & Fund Management; and Johnny Franklin, education policy advisor to Governor Barbour.