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Bill would address Corinth School District rating

Rep. Nick Bain welcomes a visitor in the gallery of the House chamber at the Mississippi Capitol.

Staff photo by Zack Steen

The first step has been completed.

A bill in the Mississippi legislative that would help the Corinth School District with their unfair and unofficial F rating has passed the House Education Committee and is on its way to the full House for more debate.

Corinth Democrat Rep. Nick Bain's House Bill 688 would require the Mississippi Department of Education to recognize the use of Cambridge assessments or other nationally recognized assessments for the purpose of school accountability and to develop a procedure for the use of Cambridge in lieu of the state assessments and Subject Area Testing Program.

Bain is receiving support on his bill from Burnsville Republican Rep. Lester "Bubba" Carpenter and Ripley Republican Rep. Jody Steverson along with four other lawmakers from across the state. Corinth Republican Sen. Rita Potts Parks also has her own version of the same bill being drafted in the Senate.

Bain reported his bill unanimously passed the House Education Committee on Thursday. He said next the bill would be introduced to the full House chamber.

"I am always proud to represent Corinth and Alcorn County, but I was especially proud to have fought for the administrators, teachers and students of the Corinth School District," Bain told the Daily Corinthian.

Corinth School District maintains it was promised by the state board that as a District of Innovation a modified accountability model would be created that would allow for the substitution of the Cambridge assessments for state assessments.

The district says MDE reneged on that agreement.

Teacher pay raises

The House Education Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1349, which proposes $500 increases in teacher salaries for each of the next two years, for a total of $1,000.

That would boost the starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor's degree from $34,390 now to $35,390 beginning July 1, 2020.

The bill would also boost the long-frozen salaries of assistant teachers from $12,500 to $13,500 over the same two-year period.

The overall cost of the proposal wasn't immediately clear.

In 2014 and 2015, teachers got a $2,500 bump over two years, costing more than $100 million in new spending.

The National Education Association, a teachers union, said Mississippi had the lowest average salary among the states at $42,925 in the 2016-2017 school year. The state Department of Education says the average teacher salary was a little higher, almost $45,000 in 2017-2018.

Senate Bill 2770 proposes the same increases for teachers and assistants, but despite the apparent initial agreement between the chambers, it's unclear if that would be the last word on pay raises.

Rural internet

Gov. Phil Bryant put pen to paper enacting one of the first new laws of the the 2019 legislative session this week.

And it was a historic one.

Mississippi's 25 electrical cooperatives "" including ACE Power "" can now offer high-speed internet service as the new law immediately gives them that legal authority.

Twenty of the state's 25 cooperatives have already performed feasibility studies, and three more are now planning studies. Many of the nearly 800,000 customers cooperatives serve statewide have indicated interest in buying the service, but cooperatives have to make sure the service will pay for itself.

There is also a share of $600 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture available to cooperatives to expand service.

The law allows cooperatives to invest money, loan money or guarantee loans to affiliates, but says they can't use revenue from electric sales to subsidize broadband.

Darker windows

A bill moving through the House this week could tighten regulation of tinted windows.

Such a move would allow police the ability to see inside vehicles.

Currently, people with sensitivity to sunlight may get a doctor's note saying they need darker tint than state law allows. Legislators are considering House Bill 1535, to remove that medical exemption.

The bill would also let police in small cities write tickets for vehicles with window tint that's too dark. Current law bans such tickets in cities with fewer than 2,000 residents.

Stripes to solids

If passed, another House bill would remove the horizontal stripes from prisoners uniforms.

The House Corrections Committee passed House Bill 1287, which would mandate solid-colored uniforms. It goes to the House for more debate.

(Capitol Connections by staff writer Zack Steen will appear in the Daily Corinthian throughout the 2019 Mississippi Legislature session.)

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)