Lawmakers in Mississippi will likely vote on two bills this winter that would require public school districts to front the costs if their graduates require remedial courses in the state’s community colleges. Undergraduates are placed in the lower-level courses to improve their skills in subjects like reading, writing, and math, after they are deemed unprepared for college level classes. Senator Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, introduced one of the bills in early January, which also proposes ending state funding of remedial education classes at state-supported community colleges and universities. Senator John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, introduced the second bill with nearly identical measures and an extensive proposal for a new funding formula. More than 40 percent of community college students in the state need remediation, which cost the state $35 million in teacher salaries, classroom space, utilities, and associated costs in 2012.
Officials in New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon have considered similar legislation over the last five years although the proposals did not even make it out of legislative committees in any of those states. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage said last summer that he plans to tackle the issue in the spring; later he acknowledged that he doubted the bill would pass.
If approved in Mississippi, the measure would pose serious financial and logistical difficulties. The state has only fully funded its K-12 system twice in the last decade, according to recent news reports. But Governor Phil Bryant has stated that education will be the focus of the legislative session this year, and supporters are hopeful that the bill will be passed and approved in the midst of other reforms, even though experts say they know of no other states with similar legislation.