Louisiana ended its regular session on June 8, and Governor Bel Edwards immediately called a special session to address the state’s budget deficit. During the regular session, the legislature proposed funding the Louisiana Scholarship Program (vouchers) at $36 million for FY 2017, but it was ultimately funded at $40 million in the special session that ended on June 23.
While this $40 million is $2 million less than last year’s appropriation, it is undetermined the extent to which the current the new funding level will impact existing and new applications for the school choice program. For the 2015-16 school year, the program served approximately 7,200 students and has earned a parent satisfaction rate of over 93 percent.
Minnesota’s final budget legislation (HF 2749) includes $1 million in Industry Certification bonuses. The bonuses will provide $500 to school districts for each student who obtains one or more certifications in high-demand fields, as identified by the Minnesota Department of Education in consultation with various stakeholders. The Commissioner of Education must report to the legislature in February 2017, on the number and type of certificates awarded, along with a recommendation on whether the pilot program should be continued. The now enacted law will incentivize schools to help students graduate with career ready job certificates in-hand, dramatically increasing students’ likelihood of success in career or college.
This week, legislators sent Governor Pat McCrory a comprehensive education reform budget that includes:
- $5 million in incentives for teachers whose students pass AP or IB courses or earn high-quality industry certifications (a two-year pilot);
- $10 million in bonuses for the top 25 percent of third grade reading teachers (also a two-year pilot);
- Protection of $20 million in existing funds for summer reading camps for first and second grade students;
- $5.8 million to more than double the special needs voucher program to $10 million a year;
- $34.8 million to forward-fund the low-income voucher program; and
- An additional $10 million a year for the low-income voucher (an extra 2,000 students a year) until reaching $144.8 million by 2027-28.
On June 9, Governor McCrory signed HB 632, a bill safeguarding student data privacy at the provider level. This bill comes on the heels of a 2014 law enacting related protections at the state and school level.
On June 30, the Governor signed SB 536, the Know Before You Go Act, which will provide information to students and parents on the cost of college degree programs, the likelihood of employment and the average salary associated with each degree. This bill will help students make informed decisions when considering college and career options.
The South Carolina legislature gave final approval on June 1 to a 2016-17 budget – signed a week later by Governor Haley – that includes $3 million to help students earn industry-recognized certifications tied to South Carolina’s workforce demand. Programs like this are essential to ensuring that a student can graduate high school with a wide range of opportunities available to them, whether a student wants to meaningfully enter the workforce immediately or whether that student wants to enter college with valuable credits in-hand.