Education top-of-mind as state legislatures reconvene
- State lawmakers will mostly be back in full legislative mode by the end of January, but they face a wide array of education challenges as they seek to comply with looming deadlines for ESSA accountability plans and school funding issues, Education Week reports.
- Since more than three-fourths of the nation’s state lawmakers and 36 governors are up for re-election this year, some observers feel they'll shy away from controversial legislation and will be more attuned to public desires.
- Many state education departments plan to create new school report card designs to reflect new ESSA accountability measures and are confronting the teacher shortage issue by rethinking teacher certification requirements, teacher evaluation strategies and teacher pay.
The Every Student Succeeds Act will likely have a big impact on state legislative decisions regarding education this year. Under ESSA, states are granted more control, which places a larger burden on state lawmakers to craft legislation that will ultimately improve schools. As Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said, “In many ways it represents the start of a new time in education where states will have more control over what’s going on. With that control comes additional responsibility.”
Part of the reason that ESSA is focusing more on state control is because the needs of different states are so diverse. In this current legislative session, for instance, Washington state will be focusing on properly and legally funding public schools, while Indiana turns its focus to student learning, operational effectiveness and school improvement. Meanwhile, Kentucky will be focusing on preserving education funding levels in the midst of proposed tax reform and improving workforce skills for high school graduates, while Georgia mulls a pay increase for teachers and the issue of health insurance spikes for school employees.
How all these measures will pan out is anyone’s guess. However, at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States held in July, state education officials from across the country expressed concern about the coming changes related to ESSA regulations. Chief among their concerns were meeting ESSA's new requirements for English Language Learners, disparities in teacher quality among states, the effect of softening federal oversight over civil rights protections, and the “revenue volatility” at the state level.