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Legislation to incentivize modified...

Legislation to incentivize modified school calendars replaced with Moral Instruction Act language

By: Anne Summerhays - March 1, 2023

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A strike all amendment was passed in the House Education Committee that replaced the Senate language with that of HB 1373, allowing for out-of-school religious instruction.

On Tuesday, lawmakers faced a deadline for House and Senate committees to pass general bills originating in the other chamber. Prior to the deadline, the Mississippi House Education Committee met to take up a number of Senate bills.

Senate Bill 2361 was among the bills the committee was considering. The legislation would have established the Mississippi Modified School Calendar Grant Program for the purpose of incentivizing public school districts to maintain or consider adopting a modified school calendar. It would have offset costs associated with adopting the modified school calendar through a time-limited grant. It was strongly supported by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann (R).

However, a strike-all amendment to the Senate bill was adopted and the language from House Bill 1373 was inserted. The amendment replacing the modified school calendar grant program with the language from HB 1373, the “Released-Time Moral Instruction Act of 2023,” gives the House bill new life, at least for now.

The House language would authorize local school boards to allow students to receive religious instruction during the school day. Students would be credited for time spent on moral instruction as if they had been in actual attendance in school and would not be penalized for any missed work during that time. The moral instruction would take place off school grounds and could not receive any school funding.

The principal author of the original HB 1373 was Speaker Philip Gunn (R). The Senate did not take up HB 1373 previously, allowing it to die in committee.

There has been no word yet from Hosemann’s office or Senators as to their reaction to this House amendment.

At the beginning of 2023 session, the Magnolia Tribune reported that lawmakers were split over the idea of incentivizing school districts to adopt modified calendars.

While the policy position has been heavily promoted by Lt. Governor Hosemann and Senate Education Chairman State Senator Dennis DeBar (R), House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett (R) and Vice-Chairman Kent McCarty (R) voiced their opposition for the legislation early on.

“I think that individual districts need to decide whether they want a modified schedule or not,” State Rep. Bennett previously told the Magnolia Tribune. “They can do all that now and to incentivize someone to do something that the community may not want, I don’t think it’s right.”

State Rep. McCarty said at the time that the school districts that have switched to modified school calendars seem to like it and it speaks for itself but did not offer support for providing an incentive.

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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: