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State Actions Update – February


• ExcelinEd News

Florida

  • A new statewide survey of 800 registered voters in Florida released by ExcelinEd this month found that nearly 80 percent of voters support allowing parents to choose a school instead of sending them to a school based on their zip code. The survey indicates that Floridians have a strong desire to create an ESA to serve all students in the state.
  • To better understand Florida’s schooling landscape, EdChoice and ExcelinEd commissioned a surveyof private school leaders in the Sunshine State. This new survey suggests that private schools are ready and able to enroll more students, assuming that parents are empowered with policy tools to help them afford tuition at schools of their choosing.
  • Ron DeSantis recently unveiled several education initiatives to empower parents and help students access a quality education and achieve long-term success in college and career:
    • He proposed a new private school scholarship, the Equal Opportunity Scholarship, which would provide an ESA for families with a family income of no greater than 265% of poverty, or around $68,000 for a family of four. The program would be funded through the state’s school funding formula and be capped at an amount equivalent to one-half of one-percent of the statewide public school enrollment (14,000), and increase by this amount each year thereafter.
    • DeSantis also prioritized increased investments in career and technical education and computer science education initiatives.

Georgia

  • The Senate Finance Committee advanced SB 173, Education Scholarship Accounts legislation by Sen. Greg Dolezal, which now awaits floor consideration. The bill would provide new options for underserved Georgia students, especially those from low-income, military or foster families, those with special needs, and those who have been bullied.
  • Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously passed Chairman Martin’s SB 48, which creates a statewide screening program to detect dyslexia in kindergarten students and may also help identify other struggling readers. The bill awaits consideration in the House.
  • Legislation that would expand access to high-quality computer science coursework for more middle and high school students received favorable consideration from the Senate Education Committee. SB 108, sponsored by Chairman P.K. Martin, now moves to the full Senate.

Idaho

  • Last week, Idaho senators passed S 1058, which would create a new charter school administrator certificate as an alternative to traditional administrator certificates. Unlike most states, Idaho requires charter school administrators to hold a traditional school administrator certificate. This lack of flexibility prevents some local boards of directors from hiring the administrator of their choice. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
  • SB 1059, a bill that allows for the expansion of Idaho’s mastery-based education network, was unanimously approved by the Idaho Senate this week. The legislation will now move to the House for consideration.

Indiana

  • HB 1404, school accountability legislation that establishes new standards for measuring a school’s overall performance, passed the House. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Cook, will now make its way through the Senate.
  • Two bills sponsored by House Education Chairman Rep. Robert Behning are making their way through the legislature. HB 1629, which allows charter and non-public school students access to courses at career and technical education centers, passed the House. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration. HB 1630 updates school accountability grading for newly formed charter schools. It also passed the House 97-2 and will move to the Senate.

Kentucky

  • A revised HB 272 by Rep. James Tipton passed the House and now moves to the Senate. The original bill would have enacted a comprehensive early literacy and math initiative; as a first step, the new version focuses on improving the teacher pipeline in these areas.
  • SB 98 by Sen. Mike Wilson, which would codify Governor Matt Bevin’s Work Ready Kentucky program expanding student access to dual credit, industry credentials and other college and career readiness options, passed the Senate and now moves to the House.

Mississippi

  • Sen. Gray Tollison’s industry credential incentives bill, SB 2447, has moved one step closer to becoming law. The legislation, which provides career and technical education grants to schools for qualified students, was unanimously voted out of the Senate. The bill has been transferred to the House and is awaiting its first hearing in the House Education committee.

Missouri

  • SB 160, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, and HB 478, sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli, would establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The program would be funded through a tax credit for donations to nonprofit organizations that provide participating students with a scholarship that could be used to pay for a variety of approved education services. Both bills have completed their initial committee process and are ready for consideration on their chamber floors and fiscal review committees.
  • HB 581, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Roeber, and SB 292, sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, would allow public charter schools to serve students in communities with more than 30,000 residents. Currently, charters are essentially limited to Kansas City and St. Louis. Both bills have completed their committee process and are ready for consideration on their chamber floors.

Oklahoma

  • Committees in the Oklahoma Senate and House advanced bills to increase the cap on tax credits available for donations to nonprofit organizations that provide needs-based scholarships to students to attend private schools and fund innovative educational programs in public schools. HB 2621, sponsored by Rep. Jon Echols, would increase available credits to $30 million for each program, while SB 407, sponsored by Sen. Dave Rader, would increase available credits to $10 million each.

Pennsylvania

  • Speaker Mike Turzai, a long-time champion of educational opportunity, released a co-sponsorship memo indicating he would introduce a bill in the near future to increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) by $100 million. His legislation also proposes a 10-percent escalator to the cap of the EITC if the previous year’s claims exceed 90 percent. The proposal also seeks to increase the maximum annual household income by $10,000, while guaranteeing that once a student has received a scholarship, they will remain eligible through high school graduation regardless of changes to family income.
  • In another effort to increase access to both the EITC program and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program, Sen. Mike Regan introduced SB 299, providing a 25-percent automatic increase in the amount of tax credits for the programs whenever the previous year’s claims exceed 90 percent.
  • A bipartisan group of legislators unveiled a legislative package aimed at increasing access to career and technical education (CTE) for Pennsylvania students. Notable bills in the package include:
    • HB 522, which would create a CTE investment incentive program, including tax credits for businesses that contribute to CTE programs and enrollment expansion programs. The bill is authored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin).
    • HB 265, which would expand the online database that allows students to check where courses, programs, certificates and diplomas are able to be transferred among public schools and institutions of higher education. The bill is authored by Rep. Craig Staats (R-Bucks).
    • HB 297, which would help improve career information and recruitment. The bill is authored by Rep. Zach Mako (R-Lehigh/Northampton).
    • HB 393, which would create an online career resource center. The bill is authored by Rep. Patrick Harkins (D-Erie).
    • HB 394, which would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to create an inventory of workforce development programs offered at secondary and post-secondary institutions. The bill is authored by Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne).

South Carolina

  • Omnibus reform bill H 3759 by House Speaker Jay Lucas and companion S 419 by Senate Education Chairman Greg Hembree continue to make their way through the South Carolina legislature. The bills aim to make significant improvements in early literacy, computer science, college and career readiness, school turnarounds and other areas. Next generation learning language by Rep. Neal Collins was also added to H 3759 as it passed the House Education & Public Works Committee. The bill now moves to the floor.

Tennessee

  • SB 166 by Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham and companion HB 241 by House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn clarify language for the state’s course access program. The legislation would allow students to take two courses through the program per school year. HB 241 passed out of a House Education subcommittee, while SB 166 received favorable consideration from the Senate Education Committee.
  • HB 1083 by House Education Chair Mark White and companion SB 836 by Sen. Raumesh Akbari would create fairer default closure proceedings for both new and existing charter schools. The latter has been approved by the Senate Education Committee; the former has passed a House Education subcommittee.

Utah

  • The Utah legislature unanimously passed legislation (SB 91) sponsored by Senate Education Chair Ann Millner to further recognize and enhance competency-based education programs in the state. The bill awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature.
  • Last week, the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee favorably passed SB 177. This bill sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore establishes the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program, a tax-credit funded scholarship program for students with physical and intellectual disabilities. The bill is now up for consideration and final vote in the Senate chamber.

West Virginia

  • After several weeks of debate and numerous changes between the two legislative chambers, SB 451 – a comprehensive education reform bill – ultimately died in the House on February 19. The bill, championed by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Senate Education Committee Chair Patricia Rucker, would have provided Mountain State students with educational options in the form of public charter schools and education savings accounts (ESAs). At the end of the day, the bill was whittled down to allow the creation of up to seven charters and to provide up to 1,000 ESAs for students with special needs and those who were victims of bullying or harassment. It was tabled indefinitely by the House.
  • SB 267 – sponsored by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Minority Leader Roman Prezioso – was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice. West Virginia is now the first state in the nation to require that students receive computer science education before graduating high school.
  • This week, the Senate Education Committee passed HB 2009, which would add mastery-based learning as a new category in the state’s existing Innovation in Education program. Schools would have more flexibility to adjust their instructional methods and programs to focus on helping students master key content and skills. The bill, sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Danny Hamrick and House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, moves to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

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