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State Actions – Policies and Progress Across the Nation, February 2016


This week a bipartisan coalition of Colorado legislators filed HB 1289, a bill to establish a pilot program of incentives for high schools to provide a variety of career and vocational training courses to students. The bill would establish a $1 million annual appropriation that begins in fiscal year 2017-2018 and continue for two years. Participating school districts or charter schools would receive $1,000 for each student who earns an industry certification in high-demand fields and that articulate into college credit. Additionally, funding could be granted for students who complete a qualified internship or pre-apprenticeship program or for students who earn a qualifying score on AP computer science.


In February, several student-centered reform policies advanced in the Florida House and Senate:

  • Public school choice (open enrollment) legislation passed the House, and three similar companion bills all passed their last committees and advanced to the Senate Floor.
  • Competency-Based Education legislation passed the House, and two similar companion bills both passed their last committees and advanced to the Senate Floor.
  • Legislation to create a High Impact Charter Network and expand students’ access to Course Access and online learning programs passed the House, while companion legislation advanced through its second of three committee references in the Senate.
  • Legislation to expand McKay Scholarships (special needs vouchers) passed the House, while companion legislation advanced through its second of three committee references in the Senate.
  • Legislation to codify state-provided teacher liability insurance passed through the House, and was considered on Second Reading in the Senate. Other similar bills advanced to the Senate Floor or through the appropriations process.
  • “Pay for Success” (funding reform) legislation passed through its second of three committee references in the Senate.
  • A bill providing accountability for associations that expend public education dollars passed the House, and companion legislation passed its last committees and advanced to the Senate Floor.


With the February 29 crossover deadline on the horizon, many education policies continue to move forward:

  • HB 659, which would provide for transparency in local school spending for parents, teachers and policymakers, passed the House by a 162-0 margin on February 10.
  • The Governor’s fiscal 2017 budget, which would use existing funds to create a new professional liability insurance program for Georgia teachers, passed the House on February 19.
  • Also in mid-February, the Building Educational Success Together (BEST) Act, HB 865, passed a House Ways and Means subcommittee. The bill would provide tax-credit scholarships to low-income students.


This week the Idaho House of Representatives passed H 451 and H 526, bills to establish and fund an early literacy program to help struggling readers get the support they need to read on grade level. These bills follow Governor Butch Otter’s bold commitment to early literacy efforts that give all Idaho students the reading skills they need to be successful. This legislation will ensure parents are informed about the status of their children’s educational progress and that teachers and schools have the resources and support they need to effectively teach reading, assess student achievement, provide interventions when necessary and establish a solid foundation for a student’s academic success.


Charter school bills, SB 2161 and HB 1044, passed their committees in the Senate and House, respectively, and are ready for consideration by the full chambers.  These bills would amend the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 to give more students the ability to attend a charter school.

Legislation to expand Education Savings Accounts, HB 943, passed the House Education Committee, but was not heard by the House Appropriations Committee in time to meet the Legislature’s deadline for bills passing committees in their originating chambers.  However, HB 33, legislation to expand eligibility for the law to any student who had an active IEP in the past five years (from 1.5 years in current law) passed the Education Committee.


This week the House Committee on Education approved HB 2123 which establishes the Missouri Course Access Program and would allow public school students to take up to two courses per year if the student’s guidance counselor approves the request.  The district would be responsible for monitoring course quality and student progress, and districts would be required to accept these courses for credit.


The Supreme Court of Oklahoma upheld the state’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, created by the legislature in 2010, in a 9-0 decision.  This program provides vouchers to special needs students, and the Court declared that the program does not violate a state ban regarding aid to religious institutions.

In the legislature, Representative John Paul Jordan’s HB 3028 passed the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee.  This bill would provide students and parents with a comprehensive economic security report and require that a 2-page summary of the report be provided to each middle and high school student.  Additionally, the House Education Committee passed a universal Education Savings Account bill, HB 2949, sponsored by Representative Jason Nelson.


Several education reform bills were advanced by the Tennessee General Assembly in February:

  • The House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee passed HB 1879, the Course Access Program Act. This bill would allow public school students to select courses from a variety of options (online, face-to-face and blended) and providers including other public schools, colleges and universities, employers and nonprofits. Watch a video to learn more about Course Access!
  • HB 1485 passed the same subcommittee recently. This bill would improve kindergarten literacy screening as part of Commissioner Candice McQueen’s Ready to Read Initiative. Governor Bill Haslam has included an additional $10 million for K-3 reading programs in his 2016-17 budget (HB 2629 and SB 2653, introduced this month).
  • Also this week, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee passed HB 155, an A-F School Grading bill sponsored by Representative GlenCasada. HB 155 would develop a grading system for schools based on student growth and achievement; a Senate companion passed in 2015 and was carried-over to the 2016 Session.
  • Paycheck Protection legislation, HB 294, passed the House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee in early February. This bill would end the automatic collection of union dues from teacher paychecks.
  • SB 1735 would clarify the eligibility of kindergarten students for the state’s Individualized education accounts law (special needs Education Savings Accounts or ESAs). The bill passed the Senate this week, while its counterpart, HB 1568, passed the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee. SB 2504, which would add Achieving a Better Life Experience accounts as an allowable expenditure ESAs, passed the Senate Education Committee this week.
  • HB 1049, the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act, passed through all of its committees, but was tabled on the House Floor on February 11. Education vouchers, better known as opportunity scholarships, allow parents to choose the appropriate school environment for their child.


This week, SB 143 passed out the Utah Senate Education Committee.  This bill establishes a competency-based education grants program to improve educational outcomes in public schools in a personalized, locally-driven way.