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State Actions Update – March 2020



National

  • Congress has passed several COVID-19 legislative relief packages and they have been signed into law. Penn Hill Group provided a memo and summaries on education and workforce, as well as K-12 elements, to provide context on the coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Alabama

  • The Alabama Legislature is expected to be out for another month; they set April 28 as their next meeting day.
  • HB 293, sponsored by House Education Chairwoman Collins, creates the Alabama STEM Council to improve STEM-related education, career awareness and workforce development across the state. This legislation passed the House March 5 and is now waiting to be read for the first time in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

Alaska

  • The Alaska Legislature is continuing operations under COVID-19, but in-person meetings and testimony have been restricted. Both the House and Senate passed emergency relief bills that address unemployment, public health and disaster relief.
  • SB 6, which creates a statewide comprehensive K-3 reading policy designed to improve reading outcomes, awaits hearing in the House Education Committee. Introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and sponsored by Sen. Begich, this bill would expand high-quality Pre-K opportunities, provide direct support and intervention services for low-performing schools and help schools identify struggling readers more quickly.
  • HB 153, a companion bill to SB 6, was discussed over several legislative hearings in the House Education Committee in March. If passed, this bill will enact provisions similar to those in SB 6.

Arizona

  • On March 25 the Arizona legislature adjourned for a recess until April 13 due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • HB 2910 was passed quickly through both Arizona chambers just before their early adjournment. The bill provides flexibility to school districts as they navigate COVID-19 related closures and subsequent challenges. Depending on the school closure timeline, the bill either extends the timeline for state assessments or cancels them; holds schools harmless for any missing accountability data; allows districts flexibility in how they spend their operating funds; and requires that schools provide distance learning. The bill was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on March 26.
  • SB 1224, sponsored by Sen. Allen, was signed by Gov. Ducey on March 20. This bill expands the Empowerment Scholarship Act to include children of the Navajo nation, who will now be able to access high-quality education services across state lines.
  • SB 1036, also sponsored by Sen. Allen, repeals the requirement that the Arizona Department of Education contract with a third-party administrator to assist in the financial administration of Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). This bill was signed by Gov. Ducey on March 20.
  • HB 2448, which creates an innovation flexibility waiver and establishes a process through which schools can become schools of innovation, passed the Senate Rules Committee on March 9 and awaits calendaring on the Senate floor. If passed, this bill will enable school districts to more creatively meet student needs and expand student learning.

Colorado

  • The Colorado Legislature temporarily adjourned March 18 due to COVID-19 concerns and is tentatively scheduled to re-open April 13. Decisions regarding the remainder of the 2020 session amid statewide social-gathering restrictions are before the Colorado Supreme Court.
  • HB 1288, which amends the Colorado READ Act to require school districts to post on their website the type of reading curriculum and literacy interventions they employ, passed the House Education Committee on March 12 and awaits hearing in the House Appropriations Committee. Sponsored by Rep. Rich and Sen. Rankin, this bill is designed to increase transparency and accountability in the implementation of the READ Act.

Florida

  • The Florida Legislature adjourned March 19  immediately following their approval of the state budget (HB 5001) which includes:
    • $42 million increase for the Gardiner Scholarship Program to serve the 4,000 students on the waitlist;
    • $169.6 million for charter school capital outlay;
    • $500 million for teacher pay increases, with $400 million of those funds to be used to raise teachers’ minimum base salary to $47,500; and
    • $52 million in emergency state and federal funds for the Florida Department of Health to combat COVID-19 and another $300 million added to state reserves to deal with the effects of COVID-19.
  • HB 7067, sponsored by Rep. Sullivan, passed both chambers March 13 and has been enrolled. The bill:
    • Increases the number of scholarships available annually for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program;
    • Provides an automatic 25% increase in household income when more than 5% of total available scholarships have not been awarded; and
    • Allows students receiving a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship to remain in the program regardless of an increase in household income.
  • HB 7097, sponsored by Rep. Avila,passed both chambers March 13 and has been The bill requires that school capital outlay surtaxes approved by voters in the future be proportionately shared with charter schools. Several other tax reductions and tax-related modifications are included in this bill.
  • HB 171,sponsored by Rep. Ponder, passed both chambers March 5 and has been enrolled. The bill:
    • Provides a standardized process for active military and veterans to earn postsecondary credit and clock hours for military education and credentials; and
    • Requires the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to annually adopt the Articulation Coordinating Committee’s list of postsecondary course equivalencies and minimum postsecondary credit, or career education clock hours, that must be awarded for courses taken and occupations held by individuals while serving in the military.
  • HB 641, sponsored by Rep. Plasencia and Rep. Overdorf, passed both chambers March 13 and has been enrolled. The bill:
    • Provides incentive funding to districts for students that earn an Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone Diploma in addition to a standard high school diploma;
    • Removes the maximum number of college credit hours that International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) students may be awarded for completing course examinations; and
    • Creates the teacher salary increase allocation.
  • SB 662, by Sen. Wright, passed both chambers March 10 and has been enrolled. The bill allows military families transferring to Florida to pre-enroll their children in any public school in the state. The bill also adds two years participation/credit in JROTC program and a score (Category II or higher) on the military test to the school grading calculation.
  • HB 1193, by Rep. Ingoglia, passed both chambers March 12 and has been enrolled. The bill expands the time frame for a veteran to apply for a civilian commercial driver license after separating from military service.
  • HB 434, by Sen. Montford, passed both chambers March 10 and has been enrolled. The bill includes the completion of 300 clock hours approved by the State Board of Education in career-education dual enrollment in the school grade calculation.
  • HB 81, by Rep. Andrade, passed both chambers March 12 and has been enrolled. The bill aligns state law with federal guidelines that authorize the federal reimbursement of Medicaid-eligible, school-based health services for all students enrolled in Medicaid.

Georgia

  • To avoid the further spread of COVID-19, the legislature adjourned until further notice. So far, five state senators and one House member have tested positive for the virus.
  • Before departing, legislators passed the state’s amended fiscal year 2020 budget. HB 792 provides $100 million in emergency funding to address the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on March 17. HB 444, a priority of Gov. Kemp sponsored by Rep. Reeves, also received final approval on March 3. The legislation, which streamlines dual enrollment opportunities for Georgia students, awaits the governor’s signature.
  • The following legislative actions also occurred ahead of the March 12 crossover deadline:
    • A bill that would improve and expand the existing special needs voucher program was passed by the Senate. Sen. Unterman’s legislation would allow students with 504 plans, among others, to access the program. It would also improve program transparency and reduce regulatory burdens on participating families. SB 386 now awaits consideration by the House.
    • Two pieces of legislation that would improve the state’s charter school policies were passed by the House. HB 957, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Jones, clarifies that public charter school 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. HB 755, sponsored by Rep. Belton, gives locally approved charter schools a clearer picture of the funds that they are receiving, compared with those that they are entitled to. The bills move to the Senate for consideration.
    • Senate Education Chair Martin’s two bills to strengthen the state’s college and career pathways passed the full Senate and move to the House. SB 447 would provide definitions around work-based learning and related programs and SR 833 would create the Joint Study Committee on Preparing Our Future Workforce.
    • A testing reduction bill, also sponsored by Chair Martin, passed the full Senate and moves to the House. SB 367 would make several changes, including eliminating five of seven state assessments currently administered beyond federal requirements, improving the end-of-year testing window and prioritizing the reduction of local assessments.

Idaho

  • Both the Idaho House and Senate voted to adjourn the 2020 session on March 20 in response to COVID-19 concerns.
  • HB 629, which included a permanent line item of $3.2 million for literacy proficiency, was signed by Gov. Brad Little on March 20. This is a significant appropriation that will maintain increased literacy proficiency programming in the state.

Illinois

  • This legislative session, Rep. Mayfield filed HB 4703. This bill would create a comprehensive literacy policy in Illinois that includes literacy training for teachers, reading services for students and a third-grade retention policy.
  • The Illinois General Assembly has adjourned session due to COVID-19 and is not expected to come back until later this spring to address the budget and other priority issues.

Indiana

  • With the approval of Gov. Eric Holcomb, the following bills became law on March 30:
    • HB 1003 allows the State Board of Education to approve flexibility waiver requests from schools for education laws and rules, if the school can show it has an innovative program that is hindered by current law. The new law, authored by Rep. Jordan, also includes language related to SB 455 to allow for more flexibility to schools in becoming accredited by the state.
    • HB 1065, which now clearly permits public charter schools to share referenda dollars.
    • HB 1066, authored by Rep. Thompson, will allow for easier transportation of students from career and technical education programs. This legislation also includes language from SB 195, which was authored by Sen. Koch, specifically focusing on creating pathways for students to the electric and utility industries. This bill allows students to have better educational opportunities to align their courses to high wage, in-demand career opportunities and urges the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to use critical data in creating and amending CTE pathways.
  • The Indiana General Assembly completed their legislative session before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Iowa

  • The legislature passed SF 2408, which includes a provision to waive schools’ requirement to make up class days canceled as a result of COVID-19 and gives the governor more flexibility to address the outbreak. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed this bill into law on March 17.
  • The Iowa General Assembly is adjourned for a minimum 30 days due to COVID-19 and will consider reconvening after April 15.

Kentucky

  • Due to COVID-19, the Kentucky General Assembly has canceled most meetings and will reconvene on April 1 to finalize the state budget (and again later this month to take up action on any vetoes).
  • Before recessing, the legislature delivered two college and career readiness bills to Gov. Andy Beshear. First, SB 193, sponsored by Senate Majority Caucus Chair Adams, would increase participation in computer science courses by underrepresented groups. Second, SB 101, sponsored by Majority Whip Wilson, would require public colleges and universities to honor high school career pathways. Both bills were signed into law by the Governor on March 27.
  • The Senate Rules Committee also advanced SB 10, sponsored by Senate President Stivers. The bill would prohibit governors from reorganizing the State Board of Education and require the board to reflect the state’s political, racial and gender makeup.

Louisiana

  • The Louisiana Legislature will meet briefly next week and is expected to adjourn for a break shortly after.
  • Sponsored by Rep. Edmonds,HB293 will provide more local school district transparency by publishing local school board information for the public to access. This legislation was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on March9and is now waiting to be read for the first time in this committee.

Mississippi

  • The Mississippi Legislature will remain adjourned until further notice.
  • On March 9, the Senate passed SB 2286 to expand Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives program to allow more pre-kindergarten students the opportunity to participate. This program is considered a national model with high quality benchmarks and favorable outcomes for preschool students. It will revise funding and specify teaching standards for the program. Sponsored by Sen. Wiggins, SB 2286 is now awaiting consideration in the House Education and Appropriations Committee.
  • If passed, SB 2594, would extend the Education Scholarship Accounts Program for special needs students for another four years and increase academic accountability provisions of the program. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. DeBar, has passed the Senate and was referred to the House Education Committee on March 25
  • HB 1165 would set a goal of mandatory computer science instruction throughout schools in Mississippi by the 2023-2024 academic year. Sponsored by the House Education Chairman Bennett, this bill passed the House on March 11 and was transmitted to the Senate the following day.

Missouri

  • On March 15, the House of Representatives included $5 million in their budget, HB 2002, for charter schools. This funding would go towards a grant program for high performing charter schools for purposes such as facilities maintenance.
  • The Senate Education Committee advanced SB 734 on March 3, which would allow for education funding to follow a student to their charter school of choice. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Emery, would mandate school districts pay charter schools a portion of both state and local dollars for the students that are enrolled from that district.
  • The House filed HR 5497 on March 18, which resolves that school districts should take necessary steps to protect the health of children without fear of funding reductions or punishments for failing to meet minimum hours and school day levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The legislature has currently adjourned due to COVID-19 and is not expected back until the week of April 6 at the earliest.

Minnesota

  • Robbins filed a comprehensive early literacy bill on March 4. HF 4065 includes literacy training for teachers, reading services for students and a third-grade retention policy. The bill is being considered by the House Education Committee.
  • On March 27, the House Education Committee filed amendments for HF 4415, which address several issues related to COVID-19 response including school closures, teacher pay, training, Commissioner’s authority, and graduation requirements. The Senate filed SF 4369 which has the same language.
  • Due to COVID-19, the legislature has adjourned until April 14 at the earliest.

New Jersey

  • COVID-19 legislation sponsored by Rep. Carter, A 3839, will allow $20 million in supplemental appropriations to go to the Department of Education to support school facility cleaning and sanitation. This bill passed the Assembly unanimously on March 16 and now awaits consideration in the Senate.

North Carolina

  • The legislature is scheduled to convene April 28; no plans have been announced to alter this timetable due to COVID-19. State House Speaker Tim Moore created a bipartisan House Select Committee on COVID-19, which includes an education working group.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order providing $50 million in COVID-19 related support to districts and schools. The State Board of Education approved a formula for allocating those funds based on a combination of student enrollment and poverty levels.

Ohio

  • Unanimously passed in both chambers and approved by Governor DeWine, HB 197addresses some of the key concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, including many education-related issues. The legislation waives state testing and school report cards for this year and creates a safe harbor from sanctions, permits seniors to graduate if on-track before COVID-19 based on local decisions, and allows local schools to determine Third Grade Reading Guarantee promotions. HB 197 also postpones discussion on expanding state’s EdChoice scholarship program by limiting the number of EdChoice-eligible buildings to those that were eligible in the 2019-2020 school year, after the number of schools in which students are eligible was slated to rise markedly this year.

Pennsylvania

  • The Pennsylvania Legislature is still in session, passing several measures to address the current COVID-19 situation. Lawmakers are reporting remotely and in-person as needed.
  • Approved by Governor Wolf on March 27, Sen. Aument’s SB 751 addresses the current pandemic by eliminating education requirements of 180 school days, waiving testing requirements, increasing the number of allowable flexible instruction days, and ensuring that schools are making a good faith effort to offer continuity of education through alternative means during this time.

South Carolina

  • To contain the possible spread of COVID-19, the legislature has adjourned until April 6. This date is dependent on leadership’s evaluation of whether it is safe for legislators to return and resume their work. When legislators reconvene, they may take up the legislation below.
  • Senate Education Chair Hembree’s omnibus bill (S 419), as introduced, would make significant improvements in early literacy, college and career readiness, school turnaround and other areas. On March 12, the bill was significantly modified and passed by the Senate; it now moves to the House, which passed its own version in 2019.
  • S 556, by Senate Majority Leader Massey, creates Education Scholarship Accounts for high-need students. The program would serve students with special needs and those from lower-income, military or foster care households. The bill was advanced by the Senate Education Subcommittee to the full Committee on March 5.

Tennessee

  • Leaders of the Tennessee General Assembly are taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 and have paused their legislative work until June 1.
  • Prior to recessing, the legislature passed HB 2821 and HB 2818, both sponsored by Rep. Lamberth. The former is the state amended budget, which sustained $37 million in funding for the new ESA program and redirected other funds toward $500 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. The latter cancels all TNReady state testing and school accountability reporting for the 2019-2020 school year in response to emergency school closures around the state. Both bills were transmitted to Gov. Bill Lee for his approval on March 24.
  • The Tennessee Department of Education opened applications for the state’s new low-income ESA program on March 26. The program will afford thousands of Memphis and Nashville students a brighter future by allowing them to tailor their education to their individual needs. Applications for the fall semester will be open through April 29.

Utah

  • A new scholarship for students with special needs (HB 332) passed the legislature on March 11 and awaits signature by Gov. Gary Herbert. Sponsored by Rep. Schultz, this bill would establish a tax-credit scholarship program to provide families and students with special needs the support they require toto attend a school that fits their learning needs.

Virginia

  • Signed March 11th by Gov. Ralph Northam, HB 836 will require the Department of Education to develop and adopt standards for micro-credentials earned by public school teachers. The bill sponsored by Del. Foy passed both chambers unanimously.

Wisconsin

  • Due to COVD-19, the following bills were reassigned to the Senate Committee on Organization for expedited consideration:
  • SB 789 would expand course access to grades K-8 as opposed to just high school. Under the bill, students would be able to take online and in person courses outside of their assigned school, regardless of if they attend a traditional public, charter or private school. The bill also provides transportation funding for at risk students to attend these classes they otherwise would not be able to take.
  • SB 743. Under the bill, school funding transparency would improve. The bill calls for a task force to make recommendations on how to improve school funding transparency through means such as a public dashboard. This would allow schools to share best practices and let the public have better information on where to send their kids to school.
  • The legislature has adjourned, due to COVID-19, and is not expected to return until later in April at the earliest.

West Virginia

  • Approved by Gov. Jim Justice on March 25, SB 839 creates the State Advisory Council on Postsecondary Attainment Goals. The council – made up of members representing business, education and state agencies – will be tasked with improving the state’s education-to-workforce pipeline. Sponsored by Sen. Roberts, this legislation will work to meet the state’s postsecondary attainment goals of 60% of West Virginians to have credentials by 2030.