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Education, wookiees and anniversaries, OH MY!

• J. Alex Kelly

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, the opening weekend of “Solo” and my two-year wedding anniversary, it only seems appropriate that I write a blog entirely focused on legislative wins for student-centered policies in 2018. Right?

Of course! And 2018 has already been a big year for innovative workforce education wins in states, followed closely, though perhaps not surprisingly, by big gains nationwide for early literacy.

Partisan politics naturally makes legislating a steeper climb in a big election year, and the 2018 midterm may be second to none. Yet as AEI pointed out, workforce education enjoys the most bipartisan support from gubernatorial candidates, and our own observations suggest early literacy often crosses the political divide as well.

Already this year, Idaho and Iowa lawmakers enacted comprehensive workforce packages, and Georgia lawmakers passed legislation to increase access to career credentialing courses for high school students.

Colorado legislators expanded the state’s popular Career Development Success Program, giving students greater access to career and advanced learning opportunities.

A growing number of states are also creating high quality learning and career pathway opportunities through computer science education. We had the opportunity to support successful computer science initiatives in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri, and recently released a comprehensive list of states where “computer science mania” is sweeping the nation.

Then there’s Nebraska, where lawmakers went big in 2018, passing a comprehensive rewrite of the Cornhusker State’s early literacy laws. Elsewhere, Florida created a first-of-its-kind Reading Scholarship Accounts program, and lawmakers in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina approved additional supports and interventions for struggling readers.

In the fight to expand students’ educational freedom in 2018, Florida, Georgia and Missouri have shown the way.

Florida lawmakers enacted a new scholarship program to help students who are the victims of bullying, fully funded wait-listed students for the state’s popular Gardiner Scholarship Program and provided significant supports for the growth of high-quality public charter schools.

Peach State lawmakers nearly doubled the size of the Georgia Scholarship Tax Credit program, while also passing legislation that took important steps to create financial parity between state authorized public charters and traditional public schools.

Just last week, Missouri lawmakers passed the nation’s most comprehensive course access law of 2018 (twice!) by greatly increasing students access to high-quality courses and empowering students in all Missouri communities, rural and urban.

And not to be outdone, Arizona and Tennessee lawmakers increased financial support for charter schools, with Tennessee policymakers ensuring that funding for students with special needs follows those students to the public school of their choice, including public charter schools.

Of course, 2018 is far from over, especially with some of the Great Lakes states that like to legislate nearly year-round and our friends in the Tar Heel State who just kicked off their session last week. Fortunately, as we head into this important weekend of remembrance, we know that some significant wins for students (and wookiees) are already across the finish line. Onward to implementation!

P.S. Leda, I love you! Happy anniversary!

About the author

J. Alex Kelly @thejalexkelly

Alex serves as the Vice President of Advocacy for ExcelinEd. Previously, Alex served as a Regional Advocacy Director for ExcelinEd’s Gulf region. Prior to ExcelinEd, Alex worked as chief of staff for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and served as staff director for the Florida House of Representatives’ Redistricting Committee. Alex also worked in several other capacities in the Florida Legislature, managed political campaigns in Florida, and was legislative director for two other state agencies. A Baltimore native and dedicated Manchester United fan, Alex received his B.A. from York College of Pennsylvania and M.A. from the University of Florida. Alex and his wife Leda are the proud parents of two puppies and a tabby.