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Senate bills seek to address Mississippi teacher shortage

Continuing a busy week at the capitol, the Mississippi Senate has passed several bills aimed at rectifying the teacher shortage in the state. 

In addition to sending a pay raise bill to the House earlier in the session, the chamber has now passed the following additional bills that Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann believes will help teachers enter and stay in the profession. 

Senate Bill 2267, authored by Education Chairman Dennis DeBar, requires the State Department of Education to issue a Mississippi license to any teacher who has a valid out-of-state license within 14 days of receipt of the application.  Teachers receiving reciprocity would still be subject to a background check before being hired by a district under a separate statute.

Senate Bill 2305, authored by Senator David Blount, provides annual grants to new teachers to pay down student loan debt.  The grants would increase incrementally over a three-year period and would be paid directly to the teacher’s loan provider at the end of their contractual teaching year, with those teaching in a critical needs shortage area receiving a larger amount.

A news release explained that in all, teachers in a school district not designated as a critical needs shortage area could receive up to $10,500.  Teachers in districts designated as critical needs shortage areas could receive up to $16,500.  The average student loan debt in Mississippi is about $36,000.

“Last year, we made it easier for students to enter teacher education preparation programs at our universities. This year, we are tackling pay and licensure hurdles,” Lt. Governor Hosemann said. “These are targeted efforts aimed at ending the teacher shortage in our state.”

During a media session earlier today, the lt. governor also highlighted the passage of Senate Bill 2798, which allows energy companies to lease “dark fiber,” or fiber deployed along power grids currently unused for mass internet connectivity, to any Internet Service Provider.

Between this bill-with the House working on a similar bill-and broadband funding from the FCC, the CARES Act and $1 billion from C Spire, Hosemann expressed optimism that Mississippi can quickly become a leader in connectivity. 

“You’ve got, I think the possibility and a probability that Mississippi will be the leading broadband internet provider in the country. That’s how we get educated youth, educated technical, educated collegiate, businesses operate off of this. Everything runs faster.”

Wednesday, the House passed several key bills including one that would privatize the distribution of alcohol in Mississippi. 

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