Locals line up ed, court bills

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bills to allow public high school students to follow a career-oriented degree plan rather than college prep, beef up youth court record-keeping and free up money for markers in Vicksburg National Military Park are some of the first filed by the local delegation.

The “career diploma” bill mirrors closely a similar law passed in Louisiana last year that enables students to focus more on job training than attending a traditional university.

Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg, authored the bill, now in the Senate Education Committee. Hopson, who sits on the Universities and Colleges Committee, touted benefits of such a plan to address graduation rates.

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“It’s designed to keep students from dropping out of school,” Hopson said, adding the bill was filed to meet general filing deadlines and is likely to be amended in some way. “Students who don’t plan to attend college would get technical training.”

As drafted, the Senate version of the bill mandates each public school district offer a career track program if approved first by the state Board of Education. Credits in core subjects such as English and mathematics would remain a requirement. Another part of the bill would enable dual enrollment in a university even if a student is still in high school.

A similar version in the House sponsored by Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, and co-sponsored by eight House members contains a litany of requirements, such as parental permission for students wanting to pursue the career diploma, at least six activities geared to career and technical fields of study for all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and a “curriculum committee” to be set up by the state for continual review of a career diploma program.

A separate bill authored by Hopson before the Appropriations Committee would let the Mississippi Department of Archives and History stretch more of a $250,000 allotment for maintaining markers and other items to more places in the military park. Currently, the agency can only use it to help the National Park Service maintain the Mississippi Monument. If passed, the remaining money can be placed in escrow to restore and replace all markers and tablets.

Other bills pending before committees from the local delegation include state Rep. George Flaggs’ bill to criminalize the release of court records involving children with misdemeanor fines totaling $1,000. Another bill by Flaggs would enact the same penalty for public school employees who fail to notify youth court of an expulsion from school.

One bill by Monsour would add four additional hours of continuing education for those seeking a license to be a hair dresser or manicurist.

The 2010 regular session is expected to be a 90-day session, lasting through March.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com