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State Actions Update: April 2016



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COLORADO

Earlier this month, a bipartisan vote by the Colorado Senate Education Committee passed legislation to require school districts to share local funding with public charter schools. The bill would also provide public charter schools with access to unused school facilities. The Colorado Senate is now considering this legislation.

On April 18, the Colorado House of Representatives passed HB 1289 with bipartisan support. The bill was voted on favorably in the Senate Education Committee on April 28, and is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This legislation would establish incentives for high schools to offer career and technical education opportunities to students in high-demand fields. Schools would be rewarded 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 Advanced Placement Computer Science exam.


FLORIDA

On April 14, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7029 into law.

First and foremost, the bill establishes Universal Public School Choice, allowing students to enroll in any public school in the state that fits their needs as long as there is capacity. Another provision in this legislation is fiscal transparency, which requires districts to provide parents with clear information on the total funding spent on their child. This provision also allows parents to request a classroom change if their child’s existing classroom is not a good fit.

The bill also increases accountability and access for public charter schools by strengthening transparent reporting requirements, clarifying charter performance agreements and requiring the appointment of a representative on charter school governing boards to facilitate parental involvement.

Additionally, the bill benefits teachers by increasing the cap for the amount of bonus funds teachers can receive for every student that passes Industry Certification, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. Lastly, it strengthens accountability in Florida’s Voluntary Pre-K Program by ensuring providers are rated based on true measures of student readiness for kindergarten when it comes to literacy.


IDAHO

On April 22, the Idaho Department of Education announced the first group of schools that will participate in the newly created Idaho Mastery Education Network (IMEN). The Idaho Department of Education selected 19 regionally diverse schools, who are developing unique approaches to mastery education, to participate in the pilot program.

In 2015, Governor Butch Otter signed H. 0110 into law, directing the Idaho Department of Education to guide an initial group of schools in a transition to mastery education beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Over the last year, the Department of Education has led an awareness and application process to identify locally-developed approaches to mastery education in an effort to help them flourish.


MISSISSIPPI

The Mississippi Legislature adjourned on April 21, and this month Governor Phil Bryant signed legislation to improve charter schools (SB 2161), Education Savings Accounts (HB 33) and K-3 Reading (SB 2157).

SB 2161, sponsored by Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, makes changes to the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013. This bill allows students who live in C, D and F districts to cross district lines to attend a public charter school. The bill also makes other technical amendments relating to funding, enrollment and operation.

HB 33, sponsored by House Education Chair John Moore, expands the eligibility for an Education Savings Account (ESA) by revising the definition of “eligible student” to include students with an active IEP within the past five years, instead of the original 18 months. This improvement will offer more students with special needs the opportunity to obtain an ESA in Mississippi.

SB 2157, also sponsored by Chair Tollison, makes changes to the state’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act. Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, third-grade students must demonstrate fundamental reading skills before entering the fourth grade. This bill also includes more prescribed language for interventions for struggling readers as well as an individual reading plan requirement.


MISSOURI

SB 719 passed the Senate Education Committee. The bill would provide traditional public schools and public charter schools with an A-F school grade based on various student performance metrics. Separately, HB 1589 passed multiple House committees and would create Education Savings Accounts for students with disabilities via tax credit-eligible donations ($25 million annual cap) to education assistance organizations. Both bills now await floor action.


SOUTH CAROLINA

In late March, the House approved the 2016-17 budget (H 5001), including $3 million to help students earn industry-recognized certifications tied to South Carolina’s workforce demand.

On April 14, Representative Todd Atwater introduced H 5216, the South Carolina Course Access Act, which would let public school students across the Palmetto State take courses offered by other public schools, colleges, nonprofits, employers and other providers beginning in the 2016-17 school year.


TENNESSEE

The Tennessee General Assembly completed its 37-day legislative session on April 22. In the final days of the session, legislators approved $10 million in the state budget (SB 2653) to improve K-3 Reading across the Volunteer State, a priority of Governor Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. This new funding, which will bolster the state’s new Read to be Ready initiative, includes $9 million for a network of district literacy coaches and $1 million for a kindergarten entry screener program. Lawmakers also approved, and Governor Haslam signed, HB 1879 by House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee Chair Roger Kane, which will allow Tennessee public school students to take courses offered by other public schools statewide beginning in the 2017-18 school year.