Unfunded Mandates

Posted 5/12/14

Despite being underfunded by more than $1.6-billion in the last six years, schools have seen their standards rise significantly and their administrative duties spike upward due to mandates by the State Legislature and policy requirements at the state and federal levels. Incredibly, as the Legislature has continued to pile on the administrative functions required of districts, they have criticized school districts for administrative expenditures and insisted that any increases in state funding should be spent “in the classroom” and not on administration.

The hand-wringing over administrative expenditures is both short-sighted and hypocritical. Administrative functions are valuable and necessary components of running an effective and high-performing school district – and the majority have been mandated by the very lawmakers who now complain about the associated administrative costs. Listed below are just a few of the unfunded administrative mandates handed down to school districts.

Literacy

  • In the 2013 Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a literacy bill requiring multiple screenings of kindergarten through third grade students for literacy deficiencies.
  • The law requires development, by a team of administrators and teachers, of individualized plans for each student flagged as needing additional help.
  • The law mandates that letters be sent to parents reporting any deficiencies and include a detailed plan explaining how the school will remedy deficiencies.
  • Numerous reports and public notices regarding retentions, reading deficiencies, etc., are required as a result of this legislation.

Testing

  • The implementation of assessment-driven accountability necessitated administrative duties to comply with the strict protocol and security procedures associated with state testing. The resources to support these functions have not been forthcoming; districts have been forced to use existing personnel, usually school counselors, to manage the extensive testing processes.
  • In the 2014 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed a law requiring that at least 80 percent of a counselor’s time be spent on delivery of services to students as outlined by the American School Counselor Association (not testing-related duties). However, districts were not provided the additional resources needed to comply with the testing mandates that were previously handled by counselors.

Average Daily Attendance

  • School districts do not receive state funding for each child enrolled in the district’s schools; rather, districts receive funding based upon average daily attendance, despite having to provide a teacher, a desk, textbooks, transportation, etc., for every student enrolled.
  • In the 2013 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed a law mandating that districts calculate the percent of instructional time (not lunch, etc.) that each student misses each day due to absences (doctor or dentist appointments, etc.) and that students only be counted present if they are in attendance for at least 63 percent of the instructional day. The effect of this new law has been a significant increase in the administrative workload in school offices and a decrease in school funding.

Teacher Evaluation

  • In the 2013-14 school year, all districts were required to have fully implemented the new statewide teacher performance appraisal system that requires for each teacher: a teacher self-assessment, a formal classroom observation, pre- and post-observation conferences, informal observations, and artifact reviews. The school administrator is required to submit on each teacher a report that follows a 20-page rubric.

Principal Evaluation

  • In the 2013-14 school year, all school districts were required to have fully implemented a new principal evaluation system that requires the superintendent or his/her designee to conduct a comprehensive evaluation and report of each principal’s effectiveness.

Common Core State Standards

  • The Common Core State Standards, the improved standards for K-12 schools, will require that the state assessments be administered online. This requires considerable administrative work and, in many cases, significant expense, for technological upgrades.

Dropout Prevention Plans

  • SB 2454, passed in the 2012 Legislative Session, mandates that each district have a dropout prevention program and identifies criteria that must be included in a district’s dropout prevention plan. This law specifies that a local school district’s dropout prevention plan must address how students will transition back into their home school district from a juvenile detention center.
  • Senate Bill 2658, passed in the 2013 Legislative Session, mandates that districts with a graduation rate below 80 percent submit a detailed plan to the Mississippi Department of Education to restructure the high school experience to improve graduation rates.

Speech-Language Screening

  • HB 896, passed in the 2013 Legislative Session, requires that all compulsory school age children in public schools be screened for speech-language impairment during the period between the spring of kindergarten and the fall of grade 1 and other appropriate times as deemed necessary.

Dyslexia Screening

  • HB 1031, passed in the 2012 Legislative Session, requires that all compulsory school age children in public schools be screened for dyslexia during the period between the spring of kindergarten and the fall of grade 1 and other appropriate times as deemed necessary.
  • This statute requires that school diagnosticians receive additional training in the evaluation and diagnosis of dyslexia.