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State Actions Update – March 2019



Alabama

  • A new statewide survey of 587 registered voters in Alabama finds that 76 percent of respondents support allowing parents to choose a school instead of sending them to a school based on their ZIP Code. There was strong support for both expanding public charter schools and continuing the state’s current tax-credit scholarship program (the Alabama Accountability Act).
  • Earlier this month, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of LEAD Education Foundation v. Alabama Education Association, in favor of LEAD Academy, a Montgomery charter school that sought to open this year. With this ruling, LEAD Academy plans to open its school in August to begin serving students and families.

Arkansas

  • Arkansas senators passed a bill that would give hundreds of vulnerable students the opportunity to find the right mix of education and services that works for them. Senate Bill 539, sponsored by Sen. Blake Johnson, would establish a $3 million tax-credit scholarship program for students with disabilities, foster children, low-income families, and children of military parents to attend a private school that best meets their needs. Families could also use the scholarship to pay for educational therapies, tutoring, online learning, textbooks and other education-related services.

Florida

  • Legislation to create a new Family Empowerment Scholarship Program passed the Senate Education Committee and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The legislation, SB 7070 by Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., would allow up to 15,000 families low-income families receive a scholarship to attend the participating private school of their choice.
  • A House Education Committee bill (HB 7075) would create a K-12 scholarship program that would allow low-income and middle-class families to attend a private school of their choice, with priority given to low-income families. The proposal, which cleared the House Education Committee with a bipartisan vote, would provide up to 28,000 scholarships in the first year and increase by that number each year thereafter.
  • SB 226, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee. The legislation would give participating public school districts additional flexibility to continue innovating student learning by expanding the mastery-based education pilot, providing flexibility for the awarding of high school credit based on mastery of academic content and providing flexibility for the interpretation of student A-F grades.
  • Legislation to address postsecondary workforce education, HB 7071, passed the House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee. This committee-proposed bill would create the “SAIL to 60” Initiative to increase adult workforce attainment to 60 percent. It would also put into place a reverse transfer policy to increase attainment of associate degrees. Additionally, it would create a new competitive grant program, the Florida Apprenticeship Grant Program, available for district career centers, charter technical centers, colleges and other entities authorized to sponsor apprenticeship programs.
  • SB 1366, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, provides additional resources to school districts for professional development for teachers to provide computer science courses, and it expands the number of computer science certificates available to students. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee.
  • According to a Florida Department of Education report released last week, charter school students have higher academic achievement, greater learning gains and the achievement gap between student groups is much smaller than students in Florida’s traditional public schools.

Georgia

  • Legislation that would expand access to high-quality computer science coursework for more middle and high school students passed a House Education subcommittee, the full committee and the House floor, then earned final passage in the Senate. SB 108, by Senate Education and Youth Chairman P.K. Martin, also received $1 million in the final 2019-2020 budget.
  • The House and Senate gave final approval to SB 48, also by Chairman Martin, which creates a statewide screening program to detect dyslexia in kindergarten students and may also help identify other struggling readers.
  • Language to create an educational scholarship account (ESA) program for high-need children was amended to HB 68 by Rep. John Carson, and received favorable consideration from the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
  • HB 31, the final 2019-2020 budget, includes $2 million for charter facilities grants. Coupled with $1.5 million in existing funds and one-time safety grants of $30,000 per school, every Georgia charter school will for the first time receive roughly $70,000 next year to assist with critical facilities needs.
  • HB 59 passed unanimously in the Senate. Sponsored by Rep. Dave Belton, the legislation was amended by the Senate Education and Youth Committee to address a state ruling that would have made it difficult for certain charters to attract and retain quality board members. It awaits further consideration on April 2, the final day of the session.
  • The House passed HB 444 earlier in the month. Sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves, the bill streamlines dual enrollment opportunities for Georgia students. It awaits initial Senate passage.
  • Language adjusting Georgia’s school turnaround framework was improved by the House Education Committee, added to SB 68 by Sen. Freddie Powell Sims and passed by the House. The bill awaits final passage in the Senate.

Idaho

  • Idaho’s minimum teacher salary will see an increase in 2020-21, after Governor Little signed H 153 into law. The bill also included funding to increase pay within the various levels of the career ladder, so that teacher pay will not decrease after the first year of teaching.
  • Funding for Idaho’s Literacy Proficiency and Interventions Program, outlined in H 222, passed through both the House and Senate, with near unanimous support. Governor Brad Little signed the legislation into law, establishing a budget of nearly $40 million for the program.
  • S 1058, a bill that creates a new charter school administrator certificate as an alternative to traditional administrator certificates, successfully passed out of the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Little.
  • Idaho’s Mastery-Based Education Network now can expand from a pilot-program into a statewide initiative, following Governor Little’s signing of S 1059 into law. The legislation removes the existing statutory cap on the previous mastery-based education initiative to allow additional districts and schools to participate in the model, in addition to eligibility for a supporting transition grant.
  • Idaho charter schools could soon be receiving help with their bond payments. S 1180 provides, among other things, lower bond interest rates, which would allow the money saved to be spent in the classroom. The bill has passed both legislative chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

Kentucky

  • On the final day of the 2019 session, the House amended SB 175 by Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, removing harmful language that would have significantly watered down the state accountability system. The Senate agreed to the changes, and the bill now awaits the signature of Governor Matt Bevin.
  • Earlier this month, SB 98 received final passage in the House by a vote of 85-0. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, the bill codifies Governor Bevin’s Work Ready Kentucky program expanding student access to dual credit, industry credentials and other college and career readiness options. The Governor signed the bill on March 26.

Mississippi

  • Governor Phil Bryant signed legislation to ensure all students graduate with the skills and abilities they need to succeed after high school and beyond. SB 2447, sponsored by Sen. Gray Tollison, would incentivize schools with grant funding based on the number of students who earn industry certifications that are tied to the state’s labor market demand.
  • ExcelinEd released Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act: An Inside Look, a study of Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act (LBPA) with input from the Mississippi Department of Education and teachers around the state. According to the study, teachers and literacy leaders overwhelmingly agreed that the early literacy program is providing the support necessary for improving reading instruction, which has led to more students prepared to make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Nevada

  • Heidi Gansert introduced a bill (SB 351) to make a one-time infusion of $20 million in tax credits permanent for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program. This program provides low-income students a scholarship to attend a private school of their choice. SB 351 will ensure students currently using the program will not lose their scholarship and return to a school that did not meet their unique learning needs. It also creates a process for a third-party evaluator to determine how the program is improving student achievement.

Oklahoma

  • The Oklahoma Senate passed SB 407, legislation aimed to increase the cap on tax credits available for donations to nonprofit organizations that provide needs-based scholarships to students to attend private schools and that fund innovative educational programs in public schools. Sponsored by Sen. Dave Rader, SB 407 would increase available credits to $10 million. The bill will now be considered by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
  • SB 593 passed the House Common Education Committee. Sponsored by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, the bill requires the State Department of Education to develop a rubric for computer science programs.

Pennsylvania

  • The Pennsylvania career and technical education (CTE) package was considered and advanced by the House Education Committee and then passed by the full House. The package will now be considered by the Senate. Notable bills in the package include:
    • HB 522, by Rep. Mike Tobash, which would create a CTE investment incentive program, including tax credits for businesses that contribute to CTE programs and enrollment expansion programs.
    • HB 265, by Rep. Craig Staats, which would expand the online database that allows students to check where courses, programs, certificates and diplomas are able to be transferred among public schools and institutions of higher education.
    • HB 297, by Rep. Zach Mako, which would help improve career information and recruitment.
    • HB 393, by Rep. Patrick Harkins, which would create an online career resource center.
    • HB 394, by Rep. Gerald Mullery, which would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to create an inventory of workforce development programs offered at secondary and post-secondary institutions.

South Carolina

  • The House passed a comprehensive package of education policies aimed at improving student opportunities and outcomes across the Palmetto State. H 3759, sponsored by House Speaker Jay Lucas, would enact significant enhancements to the state’s Read to Succeed early literacy initiative, empower schools to personalize student learning, advance student college and career readiness, expand access to rigorous computer science coursework and overhaul school turnaround policy.
  • A House Education subcommittee passed out personalized learning language via H 3403 by Rep. Neal Collins. The bill next moves to the full committee.
  • ExcelinEd and the Palmetto Promise Institute released Fairness & Opportunity: Bringing Student-Centered Education Funding to South Carolina Students at a March 20 event in Columbia. This new report analyzes the fiscal aspects of education in South Carolina and explains why student-centered funding matters for students, parents and teachers.

Tennessee

  • HB 939, Governor Bill Lee’s priority ESA legislation, passed the House Education Committee.   ExcelinEd Vice President of Advocacy Adam Peshek testified on the benefits of private education choice and what the program would do for Tennessee students. Sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn, the bill moves to the House Government Operations Committee for further consideration.
  • HB 940 by Rep. William Lamberth and companion SB 796 by Sen. Jack Johnson would create a new state charter authorizer as an appellate option for petitioners not approved by their local districts. The bills have passed their respective education committees, and HB 940 has also cleared the House Government Operations Committee.
  • HB 1083by House Education Chair Mark White would create fairer default closure proceedings for both new and existing charter schools. The legislation has passed the House Education Committee; companion bill SB 836 by Sen. Raumesh Akbari passed the Senate unanimously.
  • SB 166by Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham and companion HB 241 by Speaker Pro Tem Dunn clarify language for the state’s course access program. The legislation would allow students to take two courses through the program per school year. SB 166 unanimously passed the Senate, while HB 241 passed the House Education Committee.
  • The Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Initiative, which is included in HB 949 by Rep. Lamberth, expands access to work-based learning, apprenticeship opportunities and dual enrollment for high school students. The bill this month passed the House Education Committee; companion SB 805 by Sen. Johnson passed the Senate unanimously.
  • SB 1398 by Sen. Mike Bell and companion HB 1374 by Rep. Jerry Sexton would require schools to provide formal notice of available college and career readiness course offerings, which would be of particular help to disadvantaged students. The legislation has passed the Senate and a House Education subcommittee.

West Virginia

  • Upon session adjournment, the West Virginia Legislature passed HB 2009, an innovation bill. Sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Danny Hamrick and House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, this legislation adds mastery-based learning as a new category under the state’s existing Innovation in Education program. The State Board will be tasked with forming a mastery-based learning advisory committee to help with implementation. Governor Justice signed the bill into law on March 27, and it becomes effective June 5, 2019.