Tracker: 50 states of education policy
With the 2019 legislative sessions underway, lawmakers are showing that education policy remains a priority. Here's an extensive overview of laws, bills and proposals from every state in the nation.
With the first month of 2019 on the books, many states have kicked off their legislative sessions, and those that haven't will soon convene. Although the new year has just begun, it's clear education is a top priority for state lawmakers.
So, starting this month, Education Dive will publish a legislative tracker to keep you abreast of the education bills and policy proposals being debating in each state's legislative bodies. As of this week, here's the newly effective laws and proposed legislation that's making its way through your state and all the others.
EDITOR'S NOTE: While this list is extensive, it is not complete and will be updated monthly. Know of any legislation that's not on this list? Let us know here.
- Ahead of the state’s legislative session that starts March 5, a pre-filed bill addresses the controversial decision made in November regarding a high school basketball standout. The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) ruled Maori Davenport ineligible for her senior season after USA Basketball, which she competed for during the summer, mistakenly sent her a paycheck, which she cashed. The controversial decision spurred state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, to file legislation calling for more government oversight of the AHSAA.
- State legislator Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she’s been working with Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s office to help boost K-3 reading levels through an upcoming initiative.
- The state legislature, which began its 2019 session on Jan. 15, already has some education bills in the queue. State Sens. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, and Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, filed a bill that would expand early-childhood education access across the state.
- In the House, Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, prefiled a bill that would require sexual education classes to stress abstinence as the “preferred choice for unmarried students,” deem life beginning at conception and restrict sex ed instructors from teaching students how to use contraceptives.
- After beginning its session on Jan. 14, the state legislature has a slew of education-related measures to consider. Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, sponsored a bill that would hold public school districts to the same procurement standards as charter schools — even though there aren’t many charter-specific standards.
- To address a lack of funding, Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, proposed a penny tax that would bring in more than $1 billion annually to Arizona’s K-12 system. And after the state passed a measure last session that raised teacher salaries by 20%, the legislature still needs to iron out whether non-teaching staff will get raises and whether the state is adequately funding schools’ structural and educational needs.
- Republican Gov. Doug Ducey may resurface a safety plan that would allow certain individuals to seek court orders against people they deem dangerous. After that, law enforcement would confiscate any weapons, as well as lock up a person for 21 days and subject them to a mental evaluation. While not geared specifically to help prevent school shootings, Ducey's proposal is meant to quash all mass shootings.
- In light of increased teacher activism around the country, Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, introduced a bill that would outlaw administrators from closing a school because of a strike.
- Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, wants the state Board of Education to create a code of ethics for teachers that would keep them from assuming advocacy roles.
- Several bills filed in the state legislature address school safety in Arkansas’ classrooms. An incident of abuse by a school employee spurred Rep. James Sorvillo, R-Little Rock, to sponsor a bill ahead of the 2019 state legislative session that began Jan. 14 that would place video cameras in special education classrooms. As one way to help students respond during incidents like school shootings, Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, proposed a bill that would mandate public schools to train students in bleeding control. And Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, has proposed more anti-bullying measures in public schools.
- Arkansas will also debate teacher salaries, with one bill proposing that districts weigh out-of-state teaching experience in setting the salary of a newly hired educator. Another bill moves to reinstate a requirement for public high schools to offer a journalism courses.
- Expanded school voucher legislation almost passed last year, and is expected to be debated again during the 2019 session.
- A handful of education-related laws went into effect in California Jan. 1. Under a new bill, the state's education department has to come up with a list of professional development opportunities, instructional materials and other resources relating to media literacy.
- Two bullying laws also went into effect — one mandates all school employees who regularly interact with students to undergo a state-developed bullying and cyberbullying module, and the other says the state's schools have to have bullying and cyberbullying prevention procedures in place by the end of 2019.
- To address mental health needs in schools, two additional bills would bring more clinical professionals to schools and put the National Suicide Prevention lifeline phone number on students' school IDs.
- Under another recently passed law, teachers, under most circumstances, can't penalize students who struggle to repay a debt.
- Funding is a hot topic this year in the California State Legislature, which convened for its session on Jan. 7. Aside from a bill pushing for more education funding, a pledge moves to help schools pay their pension bills.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has also asked the legislature to draw up policy calling for more transparency within the state’s charter schools.
- Democrats in Colorado, which began its legislative session Jan. 4, are moving to institute full-day kindergarten, with Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, advocating for these programs to be free to all kids across the state starting this fall.
- Former teacher and state Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, co-sponsored a bill that would create more professional development opportunities for school principals. Other bills provide incentives to teachers, including a tax credit for early-childhood educators, financial waivers for rural teachers and bonuses for those deemed to be highly effective.
- Other proposals include more education funding, substance abuse treatment in schools and assigning a social worker to every grade in a high-poverty district’s elementary schools.
- Like many other states, politicians in Connecticut — which began its legislative session Jan. 9 — are looking to boost education funding. The state’s new governor, Democrat Ned Lamont, has pledged to increase state education money.
- Along with potential focuses on the achievement gap and charter schools, there is also speculation surrounding whether the General Assembly will debate aspects of a state education aid program’s distribution formula.
- With the start of the Delaware General Assembly’s 2019 session on Jan. 8, multiple legislators stressed a need to focus on public education funding. More than $32 million is owed to to local districts in deliquent tax revenues, and some have suggested restructuring the tax collection process so schools can recover lost dollars.
District of Columbia
- The District of Columbia isn’t a state and, therefore, doesn’t have a state legislature. Its central policymaking body, the D.C. Council, is in charge of education policy. In order to become law, a bill proposed and approved by the D.C. Council must also be signed by the mayor and get approved by Congress.
- Since the city council held its first meeting of 2019 on Jan. 8, member Charles Allen, D-Ward 6, has proposed legislation that would boost transparency in the public school system in forcing it to disclose how it spends city funds, which are allocated on a per-student basis for those considered “at risk.” The bill would also give decision-making power to principals, rather than the schools chancellor who has it, in deciding how the money gets spent.
- Other education-related measures include a proposal, which most of the council supports, to increase language immersion schools and add seats to schools that have immersion programs.
- Florida, whose legislative session doesn’t start until March 5, already has seen dozens of education proposals filed on topics including school safety and curriculum. The legislature will likely iron out multiple pieces of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, including how often schools should be required to perform active shooter drills. There also are bills that propose changing the rules for gun possession at schools, and one state representative introduced a measure that would streamline response plans for when students with disabilities wander away from their school.
- In terms of academics, a state senator’s bill would allow districts to adopt their own standards, as long as they’re more rigorous than those of the state. Another state senator is pushing to mandate that public schools offer Bible studies electives, and after former state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, died in October, one of her co-sponsors is hoping to pass the bill — which would institute a high school financial literacy requirement and has failed five times so far — in her honor.
- One bill, which critics say makes room for contradicting the existence of climate change, says controversial science topics should be taught in a “factual, objective and balanced manner.” The bill also says civics courses must stick to the “founding values and principles of the United States,” which opponents criticize as essentially meaning conservatism, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
- Other bills propose mandatory filters on school drinking water sources and increasing the minimum teacher salary to $50,000.
- Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has also announced an executive order that eliminates Common Core standards in his state's schools.
- Multiple education issues are on the Georgia General Assembly’s radar for its 2019 legislative session, which began Jan. 14. As is the case in many other states, teacher pay raises — a campaign promise of new Republican Gov. Brian Kemp — are likely to be discussed.
- State Rep. Debra Bezemore, D-Riverdale, filed a bill that moves to waive the state’s tax on feminine products, as well as mandate that the state’s health and sex ed curriculum include instruction on proper use of tampons and the dangers of toxic shock syndrome.
- Ahead of the session's start, a group of legislators proposed a set of recommendations to help dyslexic students.
- Expanding broadband access to rural areas is also expected to be a major priority among lawmakers.
- Hawaii, whose state legislative session began Jan. 16, is seeking to provide more funding and support for public education.
- Idaho began its legislative session on Jan. 7 with similar education-related priorities as compared with other states, including more education spending and upping teacher pay.
- Republican Gov. Brad Little’s budget proposal includes increasing educators’ starting salaries to $40,000 and allocating more than $13 million toward boosting literacy proficiency levels. Little also supports expanding career and technical education (CTE), which could make an appearance during the 2019 session.
- The state’s newly inaugurated governor, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, is entering office at a time when the Illinois state budget is struggling with a massive deficit, but he says he's committed to securing more state funds for needy schools.
- Meanwhile, state lawmakers, who convened Jan. 7 for the start of the legislative session — could revive a controversial bill from last year’s session that would set public school teachers’ salaries at $40,000 minimum. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican whose term just ended, vetoed the measure in part due to the extra costs it would incur. It’s also possible the legislature could debate charter school legislation, as Pritzker staunchly opposes charters and wants to put a statewide moratorium in place.
- After an accident in which three siblings died while boarding a school bus, the kids’ parents are asking Indiana lawmakers to enforce stricter rules at bus stops, along with the installation of video cameras and heftier penalties to punish rule breakers. And some legislators, who began the 2019 session on Jan. 6, agree these types of policies are needed.
- Teacher pay is set to get a lot of attention this session, with three bills already filed to raise teacher salaries and improve recruitment and retention efforts — two things that can help address the state’s shortage of educators. However, with Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb only proposing a relatively small increase in K-12 funding for the state, critics say there isn’t enough money to make much of a difference in the realm of teacher pay.
- The Iowa General Assembly began its 2019 legislative session on Jan. 14. Legislators have said a major priority of the body is to increase K-12 education funding and improve the mental health system, including for kids.
- In her State of the State speech Jan. 16 — two days after the start of the state’s legislative session — Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, proposed upping spending on public schools and investing more into the foster care system.
- Meanwhile, the legislative body may move to roll back a bipartisan plan on education — an issue that caused one lawmaker to switch from Republican to Democrat.
- School safety appears to be a top priority for Kentucky in its 2019 session, which began Jan. 8. A bill filed on the second day of the session pushes for more school resource officers, mental health counselors, school safety training and training on suicide prevention.
- At least two other bills target gun control policies: One bill mandates gun owners lock up their weapons when they’re not using them, and the other would ban bump stocks, require background checks and force assault weapon owners to undergo a registration process.
- However, one legislator’s bill — filed just hours before the school safety proposal was presented — takes a different stance on guns. Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Burnstadt, filed a bill that would allow people with a concealed deadly weapon license to carry their gun almost anywhere — including into a school.
- A proposal by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, moves to create a commission that would help state residents, including K-12 students, become more finance savvy. Kentucky already will begin mandating high school students satisfy a financial literacy requirement before they graduate beginning with ninth graders in the 2020-21 academic year.
- With Louisiana’s 2019 General Assembly session not convening until April 8, not much has been proposed in terms of education legislation. However, the state was awarded nearly $8 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education in early January to support early-childhood education. The money will also help boost efforts including teacher training.
- The Maine State Legislature first convened for its current session on Dec. 5 and has considered multiple education-related measures since. In 2016, the legislature repealed a surtax geared toward increasing public education funding, and Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, is proposing a bill creating a 3% surtax as a result. Maine’s governor, Democrat Janet Mills, has also said she wants to fully fund the state’s education costs.
- A measure likely to come before the legislature will focus on bringing universal pre-K to public school systems across the state.
- In the same vein as a proposal in Arizona, one bill seeks to bar teachers from getting political or including ideological or religious activism in their work in the classroom.
- Finally, another state representative wants to bring cursive back with a requirement for K-5 students to learn to write in script.
- Maryland, which began its legislative session on Jan. 9, also is making education funding one of its top priorities. During the 90-day session, lawmakers will attempt to figure out how to come up with the $4 billion in reforms laid out in recommendations by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, a body created by legislation in 2016 that includes expanding early-childhood education, increasing teacher pay and spending more on special education.
- Republican Gov. Larry Hogan initially wasn’t thrilled about the heavy price tag, but his $46.6 billion budget proposal majorly commits to education, with $6.9 billion in total spending. Among those funds is more than $438 million in school construction money and $30 million for school safety measures.
- Lawmakers are also weighing a proposal that would legalize sports betting, which, at a surface level, has nothing to do with education. But House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, brought forward the idea with intentions to raise even more money for education.
- One issue before lawmakers concerns legislation passed in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting last February. The “red flag” law allows individuals including law enforcement officers, certain family members and mental health professionals to request that a person’s guns be temporarily confiscated if they feel the individual poses a safety risk. Members of the House of Delegates were briefed on how this law is being implemented, which could potentially lead to future discussions.
- The Massachusetts Legislature didn’t wait long after the start of the new year to begin its session, with the body convening on Jan. 2. Last session, there was bipartisan agreement that the state’s schools were underfunded, and that the funding formula that determines how much goes where needed adjustments.
- Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's education proposal calls for more state and local spending on education, and would allow the commissioner of the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to withhold aid from districts if they're not adequately working to improve student performance. The commissioner would also get a larger role in influencing parts of schools' turnaround plans.
- Baker, who previously talked about helping underperforming schools expand professional development, after-school programs and other opportunities, included a $50 school improvement fund in his proposal that the commissioner could award to schools who need it for some of these initiatives.
- Massachusetts has a sports betting bill, which allocates tax revenues to fund education, transportation and health insurance.
- Since the Michigan Legislature first convened Jan. 9, a House proposal sponsored by Leslie Love, D-Detroit, would set a minimum number of school counselors that a district would need to employ.
- There’s also lots of debate surrounding a narrowly approved statewide school accountability system passed in December. Under the A-F system, the state grades K-12 schools in five categories: students’ overall proficiency on standardized English language arts and math tests; student growth on those tests; graduation rates; academic performance compared with schools with similar student populations; and progress for non-native English speaking children. Parents would be able to view the ratings. It’s not just disagreement that’s making this measure controversial — the policy will undergo legal review from state and federal officials as portions of it reportedly violate federal law.
- Minnesota, whose legislature convened Jan. 8, is one of a few states who elected a former educator governor. Democrat Tim Walz, who spent 20 years in the classroom, emphasized universal pre-K, stronger recruitment efforts for educators of color and eliminating vouchers in his platform, so it’s likely that at least some of these issues will surface during the 2019 legislative session.
- House leaders already unveiled a few bills, which propose expanding early-childhood education access, teacher recruitment and rural broadband access. There’s also talks of getting more funding for education, but this may prove to be a challenge, as many Republican lawmakers say there’s not enough proof to justify an increase.
- Meanwhile, one bill filed in the Senate would require the Minnesota Department of Education to put together a curriculum model that helps students learn to write in cursive by the time they finish 5th grade.
- Lawmakers will likely talk about special education, which they say doesn’t get enough state and federal funding, forcing districts to come up with the rest of the costs. It may also face discussions or proposals surrounding mental health, school safety and teacher licensing, which some say needs to be more robust. In the opposite vein, some advocates are pushing for the state to lessen paperwork requirements for special education teachers, which are said to deter people from filling these positions.
- Education made both an early and a notable entrance in the Mississippi legislature, which began its session Jan. 21. The state has several education bills to consider, including a proposal by state Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, to require teachers to recite the Ten Commandments at the start of every school day, as well as to frame a copy and hang it in every classroom.
- Another bill, authored by state Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, would fine schools $1,500 for not requiring teachers and students to say the Pledge of Allegiance within the first hour of the school day. In both cases, teachers and students who object can sit out of reciting the pledge.
- It’s possible a teacher pay raise and limits on student testing could be in the works, but reports say it’s unlikely school funding will see any significant attention or changes. Education officials including State Superintendent Carey Wright — who is paid more than any other state K-12 education leader in the U.S. — could see pay decreases with the passage of another bill proposed by Shirley.
- According to Mississippi law, kids who are homeschooled aren’t allowed to take part in extracurricular activities, including after-school sports, in their public school district, but that would change under a bill sponsored by state Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville.
- The legislature will also debate a bill that would expand rural broadband access.
- A few bills look at credentials for educators and other education officials. S.B. 2021 would waive some credential requirements for specific individuals looking to teach, and S.B. 2034 would mandate that school board members have at least an associate degree from “an accredited junior or community college or a minimum of 60 semester hours and a minimum GPA of 2.0 from an accredited junior college, community college or four-year college or university.”
- If a district is awarded an A, B or C grade by the state, S.B. 2055 would allow its schools to be exempt from certain regulations and procedures.
- State Sen. Kevin Blackwill, R-Southaven, proposed multiple bills: One would guarantee that the state reimburses schools that hire school resource officers, and another would mandate that in order to graduate high school or obtain a GED, a student would have to score at least a 60% on the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Lastly, a Senate bill moves to allow students to carry and use sunscreen at school without a parent’s or doctor’s permission.
- Heading into Missouri’s 2019 legislative session, which began Jan. 9, Gov. Mike Parson was said to be focused on developing a workforce development agenda that included expanding statewide access to early-childhood education.
- Missouri may also see increased K-12 funding, with Parson’s proposed budget including a $61 million increase in per-student money for elementary and secondary education. Advocates have urged the legislature to prioritize public school funding and making the state’s education system more competitive.
- One lawmaker wants to lower the mandatory school age — the age by which parents must enroll their child in school — from 7 to 5 years old.
- An education funding bill — which would bring more than $1.6 billion in state money over the next two years — is quickly advancing within the legislature, which began its 2019 session on Jan. 7.
- State Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy, D-Crow Agency, introduced a bill that would secure more funding for districts in serving English language learners.
- The legislature convened for its session Jan. 9. At the K-12 level, a state bill moves to force schools to “prominently display the national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ written legibly in English, in each classroom or in another prominent place in each school building where each student shall be able to see and read it each day school is in session.”
- Sen. Mike Groene, R-North Platte hopes to fix the apparent educational inequities that separate rural western Nebraska from other areas of the state.
- In his first State of the State address, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, proposed a 3% increase in teacher salaries, along with more funding for education as a whole. More specifically, he outlined more than $600 million across multiple entities over the next two years — $90 million for teacher pay raises, a $2 million total bump in reimbursements for teachers who buy their classroom supplies, and $1 million to expand CTE opportunities.
- Leaders from both chambers of the legislature, which will convene for this year’s session on Feb. 4, have said revenues from a marijuana tax should go toward education.
- New Hampshire provides $3,636 per student in funding to districts, and if a student has additional needs or requires special resources, this amount may increase. However, the current funding formula may change — or, at the very least, get some attention — during the 2019 session that began Jan. 2. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, is expected to file a bill that moves to increase this per-student allocation to $8,000. State Rep. Mel Myler, D-Merrimack, will also reportedly propose a bill that would spur the creation of a commission, which would examine the current funding formula and issue recommendations on how to improve it.
- Lawmakers also will debate a proposal to repeal an existing state law, which allows public elementary schools to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
- In addition to the New Jersey Legislature beginning its session on Jan. 2, six laws dealing with school bus safety went into effect in 2019. The laws raise the bar on safety standards and work to increase transparency.
- Gov. Phil Murphy also signed a handful of other education bills into law in January, including a measure that mandates financial literacy instruction in school districts beginning in the 2019-20 school year. And on Jan. 8, he passed a law that doubles the amount of state security funding for nonpublic schools, increasing it from $75 to $150 per student.
- As for the 2019 session, increasing teachers’ pay will likely come before New Jersey lawmakers, and the state teachers union is also lobbying the legislature in support of a bill that would lower the amount that most of its members pay toward their health insurance.
- Citing an incident in which a high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks to compete, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic, said high school coaches and athletic directors need mandatory sensitivity training. His bill also proposes that the training address potential bias and focus on gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disabilities, religious tolerance, and diversity and inclusion. Additionally, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, filed legislation that would establish an anti-bullying task force charged with examining current state policy.
- Meanwhile, as the state deals with a lawsuit that alleges segregation in its public schools, the plaintiffs and civil rights advocates are calling on officials to take steps they say will help to spur change, such as magnet schools and inter-district transfers.
- Lastly, a state appellate court in December struck down a requirement for high school students to pass the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam to graduate. That decision left thousands of high school seniors in limbo, leading to legislators saying they’d look for ways to bring back PARCC as a requirement.
- New Mexico, which began its legislative session on Jan. 15, is on deadline in terms of fixing its education funding system. Last year, a district judge ruled the public school funding system was unconstitutional, giving the legislature until mid-April to revamp the program — and figure out how to do so.
- Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has proposed raising teachers salaries to a $41,000 minimum and expanding early-childhood education opportunities, among other key points. And House Democrats are trying to fast-track a measure that would take more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund and allocate it to early-childhood education initiatives.
- Senate Bill 1, which its co-sponsors reportedly say is not a response to the ruling, moves to address funding issues, extend school time, cap charter school enrollment, raise teacher salaries and allocate more resources to at-risk student populations.
- Since New York’s legislature convened on Jan. 9, multiple education proposals have come up on the radar. A major contention between Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Democratic lawmakers is how much education aid to allocate to the state’s schools and whether the current funding formula needs restructuring.
- Another measure prevents teachers from being evaluated based on student test scores.
- While not specifically geared toward education, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — which passed through the legislature in mid-January — bans discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression.
- Lawmakers in North Carolina, whose legislative session began Jan. 9, have said they want to make education a priority. More specifically, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, and Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, say they hope to boost school safety, and Moore has pushed for a public education construction bond valued at nearly $2 billion.
- Since North Dakota began its legislative session Jan. 3, the body has seen multiple education proposals come to the table. The state Senate recently passed a bill that would allow districts to develop school safety plans and, in doing so, secure funding — which certain officials can choose to allocate toward resources such as school resource officers or mental health professionals — through additional property taxes.
- Republican lawmakers in the Senate have proposed a bill that would mandate that all North Dakota public schools create a lesson unit, which could count toward a social studies requirement, focused on the Bible. The bill later failed in a 42-5 vote.
- Other legislators were pushing for the creation of an Education Savings Account that parents could use to help fund private school tuition and other education-related costs. But, aside from their stances on school choice, some critics of the bill – which ultimately failed in a 42-3 vote – worry the measure would help fund religious schools.
- A few education bills will go into effect in Ohio — which began its legislative session Jan. 7 — this year. A new law, set to go into effect in March, says teaching cursive must be integrated into the curriculum, and students must be able to read and write in cursive by 5th grade.
- After a 14-year-old was murdered, and her parents didn’t know she never made it to school that day, Ohio schools are legally required to notify parents within the first two hours of the school day if their child is absent without an excuse.
- Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who just began his first term leading the state, has advocated for more funding for education, as well as publicly-funded early-childhood education programs.
- Following a teachers strike last year, as well as continued activism among the state’s teachers, a bill in the Oklahoma legislature — which started its session on Feb. 4 — would make it illegal for educators to “strike or threaten to strike or otherwise close schools or interfere with school operations as a means of resolving differences.” Critics say this violates educators’ First Amendment rights.
- Weeks after the U.S. Education Department announced an initiative examining the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, state Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, proposed a bill that would “prohibit the use of seclusion and restraint as a punishment” and require a professional development tool to train school staff on behavioral strategies.
- The state’s education funding formula could see revisions, thanks to a bill proposed by state Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, that would weight students differently in the distribution of funding, depending on factors including their grade level or whether they are economically disadvantaged. Virtual schools could also get funding with the passage of Senate Bill 54, which was proposed by Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, and moves to stop providing per-pupil funding and instead fund the students who don’t fail their classes.
- State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, filed a joint resolution that would leave it to voters to decide whether a state legislator can return to being a teacher after leaving office. Under current state policy, lawmakers can’t take a job that’s paid with state dollars within two years after they step down from their policymaking roles.
- Teacher pay will also reappear this session. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, proposed a House bill that would award certified teachers a one-time bonus of up to $10,000 if they return to the classroom, and Rep. Jacob Rosencrants, D-Norman, proposed another House bill that would bump up bonuses for National Board-certified teachers and provide a financial incentive to attract them to work in a high-needs school. Gov. Kevin Stitt has also said he wants to raise teacher pay once again.
- Lastly, a Senate bill moves to change the date by which a child must turn a certain age to be eligible to enroll in pre-K or kindergarten.
- Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said the state’s education system will be her top priority this session, which began Jan. 14, and her budget proposal moves to spend an additional $2 billion on K-12 education. She also said she is striving to focus on early-childhood education, extending the school year to 180 days, boosting the graduation rate and expanding technical education opportunities.
- Multiple lawmakers are hoping to expand food options for students, and three proposals attack this challenge from different angles: One pushes for universal school meals, as well as expanding two other programs that make meals more accessible to students who need them.
- Education leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which convened on New Year’s Day, have made clear some of the issues they plan to touch on during the 2019 legislative session. CTE, education savings accounts and charter school law, as well as education funding and the funding formula, are likely to be discussed.
- Republican State Sen. Ryan Aument, who represents Pennsylvania’s 36th District and chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he hopes to emphasize rigorous academic standards, accountability and transparency, hiring and retaining high-quality educators, and creating personalized learning opportunities for students. Along those lines, revamping the teacher evaluation system, removing instructional barriers, and developing CTE and computer science curricula are on Aument’s agenda.
- Poor standardized test scores have motivated Rhode Island lawmakers, who convened on Jan. 1 for their 2019 session, to prioritize tackling education issues. In the hope of encouraging improvement, state Rep. Joe MacNamara, D-Warwick — who chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee — introduced legislation that would force districts to form task forces if they have high student absenteeism rates, as well as a proposal to mandate that the state education department revamp Rhode Island’s curriculum requirements.
- Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, also said during her inaugural address that funding P-12 education was an essential piece of the state’s economic success.
- One bill that was filed in mid-January would make personal finance a high school graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2022.
- In South Carolina – which began its 2019 session on Jan. 8 – a state House effort is underway to overhaul the K-12 public education system, and as part of the discussion, lawmakers are debating whether districts with declining student enrollment should be forced to consolidate or merge with other districts. Senate Bill 203 lays this out in more detail — under the bill, districts that met two of four criteria would have to merge as soon as the 2021-21 school year.
- There’s about $1 billion in extra funds the state can spend, and under Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s budget proposal, teachers would get a 5% pay raise.
- Democratic lawmakers also say there needs to be attention paid to improving inequities between rural and higher-poverty districts and their urban and more affluent counterparts.
- Two state senators have also proposed a bipartisan education reform bill, which pushes to raise teacher salaries to a $35,000 minimum, expand technical schools access and further develop K-4 education in the state.
- If a transgender student in South Dakota was to sign up for a school sport, they could play on the team that matches their gender identity. However, if Senate Bill 49 passes, this policy would be reversed, and trans students would have to play for the team that corresponds to their biological sex.
- In addition, lawmakers – who have been in session since Jan. 8 – are considering legislation that would increase by half a unit the number of civics credits required for public high school students to graduate. A few other bills are already making their way through the legislature – one moves to subject homeschooled students to the same requirements as public and private school students when applying for an opportunity scholarship. Another bill, which passed through the state Senate, would give schools more leeway in deciding when to administer standardized tests.
- South Dakota’s legislature will likely discuss proposals around preschool program funding, which, unlike most states, doesn’t come from the state level in any capacity. It’s also possible the body will see a proposal related to increased funding for special education.
- Tennessee could see big moves in the education space during the 2019 legislative session, which began on Jan. 8. Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chairs the House Education Committee and, in an interview with Chalkbeat, said testing, vouchers and pre-K were among some of the hot topics he expected to see rise to the surface among the body. He also speculated that dual enrollment and vocational and technical education would be issues to watch.
- Some of White’s predictions have turned out to be true. Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin, sponsored a bill that would allocate up to $6,000 per family per year for educational services in the event that they don’t want to pursue a public education for their child. The voucher bill would amend current policy by expanding who can apply for this funding – right now, only public school students’ families are eligible, and Reedy wants to expand this to include private school or homeschooled students.
- Another bill puts power in the hands of local governing bodies when it comes to their superintendents. Under Senate Bill 19, these bodies could choose to mandate an election in retaining a local school superintendent. And if a majority of voters don’t want to retain a superintendent, a school board wouldn’t be allowed to extend his or her contract.
- But to be on the school board, another potential law comes into play. According to House Bill 19, relatives of a school superintendent, school board member or central office staff member would automatically be deemed ineligible to serve on a local school board.
- One lawmaker, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said he's drafting legislation that would create a code of conduct that parents, in addition to students and staff, would have to follow if they come to campus.
- In addition, within the first week of the session, a bill was filed that would legalize sports betting and, in doing so, local schools would get some of the money made.
- And, as is the case in many states, it’s likely the legislature will debate the level of education funding and whether it’s enough to adequately educate its students.
- Texas began its 2019 legislative session on Jan. 8, and state lawmakers will tackle several education issues this year. One topic expected to make an appearance is the creation of a pathway to a $100,000 salary for the state’s most effective teachers as a means of retaining quality educators.
- A state commission on public school finance, made up of state lawmakers and school district administrators, supports a series of recommendations that could spur legislative proposals. The group advised that P-5 students get up to 30 additional instructional days if needed. It also said 60% of 3rd graders should be reading at grade level or higher, and that 60% of high school seniors should graduate with some kind of technical certificate, college or military enrollment without needing remedial classes. These and a slew of other suggestions — including more CTE among younger students — serve as potential insight for what could surface in the Texas legislature.
- What’s arguably the biggest question, though, for lawmakers to figure out: how to fund schools. Local property taxes and state funding are the two main contributors to school finances, and as a result of inter-district population differences, there are often inequities between schools. One proposal suggests capping local property tax revenue growth, and another — which has garnered sharp controversy — says outcomes-based funding, or paying schools more if they perform better, leads to better results.
- One thing, though, has become clearer in the first few weeks of the session: Pro-school choice policy isn’t too high on many lawmakers’ priority lists.
- Even before the start of its legislative session Jan. 28, lawmakers filed a few education-related bills. In the House, a comprehensive school safety bill would revamp evacuation drills, create a threat assessment and support team, direct the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to hire a school-based mental health specialist and require schools to conduct a climate survey.
- Another bill seeks to make changes to sex education in Utah’s schools by allowing it to touch on contraceptive methods or devices and their effectiveness.
- House Bill 17, proposed by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, would support the creation of suicide prevention education in public schools.
- Utah’s budget surplus sets it apart from many other states. As a result, lawmakers will decide how the money is spent and whether some of it will go toward funding education.
- Along with the Vermont Department of Health’s announcement that it will test every school for lead by the end of the year, state lawmakers — who convened on Jan. 9 — are considering a proposal that outlines protocol for schools in testing and responding to problematic lead contamination levels.
- Lawmakers are also expected to discuss funding for P-12 education, with one proposal moving to eliminate the residential education property tax and, in doing so, placing more financial burden on the state income tax.
- Other potential areas of discussion include student-teacher ratios, teacher pensions, publicly funding universal pre-K and addressing an existing school consolidation law, under which the state Board of Education plans to reorganize districts that didn’t voluntarily integrate.
- While Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to prohibit teachers from going on strike, a bill in Virginia seeks to do the opposite. The legislature, which began its session on Jan. 9, will consider a measure that would repeal current law, which bans government employees in the state from striking.
- In his budget proposal, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, allocated $36 million to hiring school counselors and $39 million for school safety, noting an increase in violent incidents and suicides. Northam has also proposed teacher pay increases, which the legislature would have to approve.
- House Joint Resolution 684 proposes a code of ethics and professional responsibility, which, among other provisions, would forbid teachers from advocating for a particular politician or policy and prevent “political or ideological indoctrination.”
- Collective bargaining and whether schools should start before Labor Day will also likely reach lawmakers for debate.
- Lawmakers in Washington, which began its session on Jan. 14, will likely examine proposals on funding the state’s education system. More specifically, officials from both sides of the aisle have pushed for more special education program funding, and others — including state Sen. Claire Wilson, a Democrat who represents the state’s 30th District — have said a focus on early-childhood education and at-risk students is needed.
- After a notable year of teacher advocacy in West Virginia, education will likely be at the forefront of the state legislature, which convened Jan. 9.
- Senate Republicans unveiled a comprehensive education bill that would give teachers and school service personnel a 5% average pay raise. Under the bill, counties could identify what kinds of teaching positions they need to fill, and in order to fill them, they would be able to offer differential pay.
- In addition, math teachers specifically would get financial incentives in the form of annual salary bumps. The “omnibus education bill” also creates the state's first charter school system, which Republican Gov. Jim Justice has outwardly opposed.
- If the bill passes, teacher salaries would get slashed in the event of a strike, protest or other event that causes a work stoppage.
- The legislature will also likely consider a bill that would remove a current statewide mandate stating that when cuts are made in a specific teaching area, educators with the least seniority are the first to lose their jobs. Education savings accounts, teacher credentials and broader changes to the education funding formula could also be on the table.
- Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who defeated two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November, calls himself the “Education Governor.” And as a former classroom teacher, school principal, multi-district superintendent and state superintendent of public instruction, it’s clear that education is a major pillar of Evers’ background. It’s likely that this will have some degree of influence on his policy agenda as a result.
- Evers’ gubernatorial platform for education includes a push for more spending on public schools, funding for early-childhood education and child care, hiring more diverse teachers and eliminating vouchers. In his State of the State address, Evers promised a return to two-thirds state funding for public education
- After a legislative panel issued recommendations for Wisconsin’s education system, including more funding for mental health, special education, and low-income and bilingual students, similar proposals could make their way to the legislature, which began its 2019 session on Jan. 7.
- Multiple education bills have been filed in the Wyoming legislature, which began its session on Jan. 8.
- In an attempt to ramp up school security, state Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, filed a bill that would require the state superintendent to consult with federal and state offices in revamping school safety protocol. In addition, schools would have to develop and review their own school safety plans on an annual basis, and districts would conduct trainings with staff.
- House Bill 22 proposes changes to teacher evaluations in order to streamline the process. Another, more controversial bill would eliminate county zoning laws from the planning process in building or expanding private schools. And Senate Bill 43 aims to make it easier for students pursuing career or technical education to apply for a state merit scholarship, which supports postsecondary careers in Wyoming, by adjusting its requirements.
- One bill in the House moves to impose an income tax on out-of-state corporations, with revenues going to Wyoming’s public schools. If the bill passes, there’s still a possibility that this money wouldn’t go toward funding education.
- Education funding and sources of funding will also be subject to debate during the session. In that vein, one existing proposal suggests increasing property taxes to support public schools.
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