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

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On May 10, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed the comprehensive 2016-2017 budget (HB 2707) into law that included funding for College Credit incentives, a program that rewards schools and teachers for helping students successfully complete Advanced Placement (AP) and other college-level courses. Also this month, Governor Ducey signed SB 1457 to allow students with special needs to continue using their Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) past the age of 18 and SB 1280 to expand ESA program eligibility to more students and allow parents to apply to the program at any time during the year.

On May 23, the State Board of Education started the process of reviewing and updating their school letter grading system. ExcelinEd’s Senior Policy Fellow Dr. Christy Hovanetz presented to the Board, providing an overview of how other states approach school accountability and praising them for their commitment to high expectations, transparency and accountability.


Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas’ 2016-2017 education budget (SB 59), which included funding for the Succeed Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities. This program allows up to 100 students with an individualized education plan (IEP) to receive a scholarship to a private school of choice, empowering parents to choose the school that best meets the learning needs of their children.


On May 6, the Colorado Senate passed HB 1289, and Governor Hickenlooper signed it into law on May 27. This new law will reward schools for each student who earns an industry-recognized credential. If funds allow, schools would also be rewarded if a student successfully completes an internship, residency, construction pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship program or earns a qualifying score on an AP Computer Science exam.

The legislature also considered a number of charter-friendly measures this session and on May 10 passed HB 1422, which includes facility support to help charter schools secure school buildings, greater accountability for charter authorizers and more operational flexibility.

Additionally on May 10, the legislature passed HB 1222, a bill that would create a course access program to provide opportunities to students for online or blended learning courses.


Last week, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds sided with the State of Florida in the case of Citizens for Strong Schools et al v. Florida State Board of Education et al. In his decision on this almost seven-year lawsuit on adequate education funding for Florida’s education system, Judge Reynolds noted Florida’s learning gains.


On May 24, Governor Nathan Deal’s Office of Student Achievement released the first annual A-F school grades for Georgia’s more than 2,200 schools. Grades are determined by a number of factors, including student achievement, student growth and achievement gap closure. The grades can be viewed at SchoolGrades.Georgia.Gov. Parents, teachers, students and others can now quickly see how their school is performing, view its past performance and compare it to schools across the state.


Nevada district court Judge Eric Johnson upheld the constitutionality of the state’s historic, nearly universal Education Savings Account (ESA) program on May 18 in Duncan v. State of Nevada. Judge Johnson’s ruling helps clear the way for more than 5,000 families who have applied to the program to seek the best educational options for their children. The ESA program provides resources to any public school parent who wishes to better customize their child’s education outside of their child’s traditional public school. ESAs allow parents to purchase educational services, therapies, tutoring, dual credit programs, online courses or private school tuition.


On May 19, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed an amended 2016-2017 budget (HB 1030) that features nearly $36 million in new student-driven funding. Appropriations include an additional $25 million to hire literacy coaches who would train teachers to help struggling readers in elementary school; $5.8 million to more than double the number of students enrolled in the state’s special needs voucher program; and $4.9 million in incentives for teachers whose students pass Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, or who earn an industry certification tied to workforce demand.


The South Carolina Senate passed its version of the 2016-2017 budget (H 5001) on May 4, including $3 million previously approved by the House to help students earn industry-recognized certifications tied to South Carolina’s workforce demand. Conference committee negotiations began May 24, and a final budget is expected by adjournment of the session on June 2.