The Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would hold candidates for school superintendent to a higher bar.
Senate Bill 2398 would require new superintendents to have at least six years of classroom or administrative experience, three of which must be as a principal of an A- or B-rated school or a school that increased its rating by a letter grade during the time the individual was principal.
School superintendents are currently required to hold a valid administrator’s license from the state and have at least four years of classroom or administrative experience. Current school superintendents would be grandfathered in to the system.
The Senate bill is in sharp contrast to one passed by the House Education Committee that would eliminate requirements that school superintendents have experience in the field of education.
The Senate bill also requires the State Board of Education to come up with an alternative set of qualifications. Should a candidate meet the alternative qualifications, he or she would be eligible to become a superintendent.
The interest in qualifications of school superintendents comes in the wake of a 2016 law that required all school superintendents to be appointed by local school boards. A law passed this year and already signed by Gov. Phil Bryant made that provision effective immediately.
Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, authored and presented the bill on the floor.
Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, asked whether Tollison believed tying school ratings to candidates would improve the quality of candidates.
“I do because that’s an environment that shows where you’ve had success in the school,” Tollison said. “That experience matters.”
Simmons was one of 15 senators to vote against the bill. Senate Bill 2398 goes to the House for action.
Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, asked whether administrators in community colleges and four-year universities would be able to qualify.
“That’s really needed, to make sure that there’d be some kind of reciprocity with college or community college experience,” she said.
Tollison said he believed those people would fall under the alternative qualifications section when developed by the State Board of Education.
The House bill, authored by Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, would do away with the requirement that superintendent candidates have any education experience.
House Bill 442 would allow individuals with a master’s degree in any field or individuals with a bachelor’s degree and at least 10 years of experience in an administrative, senior management of supervisory position to be eligible to become superintendents. The decision to approve them have to come from the local the school board. That bill has yet to be voted on by the full House.
A separate bill that would have addressed qualifications of school board members was recommitted on a motion by Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Hattiesburg. Recommitting a bill to committee essentially kills it. The bill would have required school board members to hold an associate’s degree or 60 hours of college credit.