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State Actions Update – June 2020



Colorado

The Colorado Legislature passed a bill that creates a path for awarding postsecondary academic credit based on work-related experience, giving students a head start on postsecondary preparation and making it more reachable and affordable. HB20-1002, sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, awaits signature by Governor Jared Polis.

HB20-1295, which would have required an audit of the statewide public education accountability system and contained politicized language focused on school comparisons rather than on students, failed to pass the legislature. There was bipartisan concern that the bill would have weakened the state’s accountability system.

Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the following bills into law:

  • HB 7067 sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan expands and improves private school scholarship opportunities by more than doubling the number of Family Empowerment Scholarships available to Florida families and by allowing students receiving a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship to remain eligible regardless of increase in household income. The bill also provides increased incentives for dual enrollment students who earn an A and for students who earn an Associate degree in high school.
  • HB 641 sponsored by Rep. Rene Plasencia and Rep. Toby Overdorf provides additional funding to schools for students who earn an Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma. It also removes the cap on postsecondary credit hours an International Baccalaureate or Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education student may be awarded. The bill includes a teacher pay increase, which will make Florida fifth highest in the nation for starting teacher salaries.
  • HB 171 sponsored by Rep. Mel Ponder creates a process for servicemembers and veterans to be awarded college credit or certifications for education, experience and training earned during their service.
  • SB 662 sponsored by Sen. Tom Wright allows military families transferring to Florida to pre-enroll their children in any public school in the state while also being given priority status in the open enrollment process. The bill adds to the school grade calculation those students who participate in JROTC program for two years and earn a certain score on the Armed Services Qualification Test beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
  • Additionally, Gov. DeSantis signed the education budget that supports student-centered policies, including:
    • Support for families who rely on Gardiner Scholarships to customize the learning experience for children with unique abilities.
    • Investments in scholarships for young students who are struggling to read.
    • Increased training in computer science for teachers so they can help equip students with 21st century skills.
    • Higher funding for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program to prepare our youngest learners for success in kindergarten and beyond.
    • Support for nearly 313,000 students statewide with capital outlay funding for public charter schools.

Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran released the Reopening Florida’s Schools plan for utilizing the federal CARES Act funding for the reopening of Florida’s schools. Notable funding items in the plan include $45 million to ensure continuity for students in private schools, $15 million to boost reading proficiency, $21.4 million for college and career initiatives and $65 million for summer recovery targeting students with significant academic needs.

Georgia

Prior to adjourning, the following bills were passed and now head to Governor Brian Kemp for his approval:

  • HB 957, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, will allow public charter schools to operate more effectively and efficiently, and ultimately better serve Georgia students. It clarifies that state charter teachers are eligible to participate in the state health benefit plan; fixes an enrollment issue with charter lotteries; and clarifies stewardship of charter student records, among other items.
  • Another bill that would also improve the state’s charter school policies received final passage. HB 755, sponsored by Rep. Dave Belton, gives locally approved charter schools a clearer picture of the funds they are receiving compared with all funds they are entitled to.
  • Finally, a testing reduction bill, sponsored by Education Chair P.K. Martin, was modified slightly before being passed. The new version of SB 367 would eliminate several state assessments currently administered beyond federal requirements, improve the end-of-year testing window, require the Department of Education to publish an annual report of aggregated norm-referenced question data and allow the Department to study local assessments.

Iowa

The Iowa Legislature recently passed, and Governor Kim Reynolds signed, HF 2641, which increases the cap on the Student Tuition Organization tax-credit program to meet the demand of underserved students to attend a school that is a best fit for their needs.

Mississippi

The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, an education scholarship account program, will now continue to allow students in Mississippi more opportunities to find the best fit for their educational needs. The sunset on the program was repealed and extended for four more years. Governor Tate Reeves signed SB 2594, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Dennis Debar, into law.