Top Education Bills in the Legislative Pipeline

Connexeo - 04/09/2018

Education is among the hot topics in state legislatures every year, and 2018 is no different. While each state passes a school funding budget – Alabama has already increased its education expenditures by $216 million in its $6.63 billion education allocations for fiscal 2018-2019 – lawmakers also consider myriad other school-related issues.

Dual and English-language learners, and preschool education legislation dominate the education docket, with 40 bills each introduced or expected nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York’s legislature is considering seven bills dealing with dual-language learners, the most of any in the nation. These bills primarily add funding for enrollment growth in English as a Second Language programs, require measurement of English-language proficiency and mandate record-keeping and annual reporting – necessitating platinum-level education administration software.

Two New York bills are designed to accommodate students whose primary language is Chinese or Korean.

Massachusetts has passed one bill and is considering five others that focus primarily on the expanding enrollment of ESL students. The bill already passed and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker allows school districts to decide for themselves how to best teach ESL students and permits starting such programs as early as pre-K.

Other bills in the Bay State include cost reimbursement for districts whose English-learner enrollment increases by 20 or more students in a year, establishes funds for increased English-learner populations and creates the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act to enhance equity.

California’s five dual-language bills include a requirement of more detailed notification of a child’s English proficiency, establishes a grant program for dual-language immersion programs from preschool through high school, changes the way a student is reclassified from English learner to English proficient and makes it easier for an English learner to transfer schools.

Arizona is considering legislation that would require annual reporting on English-learning programs, including program model-descriptions, how long students are classified as English learners and academic performance after reclassification. Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Virginia are all studying measures to increase funding and/or measurement of English-language programs.

Florida is leading the nation in preschool initiatives, with six bills on the docket. If passed, schools would have to provide certain assessment results to parents and aggregate those results for posting on the district website, could enter into “pay-for-success” contracts with private entities and would have to adopt program assessment requirements for school readiness program providers. Specified in-home, technology-based pre-K programs also would be allowed.

Hawaii, among its five preschool bills, is proposing a constitutional amendment that would authorize a tax surcharge on residential investment property and visitor accommodations to increase school funding. The Aloha State is also considering re-opening its preschool Open Doors program to 3-year-olds and changing its priorities for admission to that program to benefit low-income families.

New York is considering a bill to expand universal pre-K, while North Carolina is studying whether to appropriate funds to eliminate the pre-K waiting list statewide. Pennsylvania legislation would fund preschool for needy children, and Washington state is considering a bill to expand eligibility for early childhood education programs.

And Tennessee might have the most creative bill of all: Rep. Raumesh Akbari and Sen. Lee Harris introduced legislation in their respective chambers that would allow retail food stories to sell wine on Sundays, with the gallonage tax earmarked for a scholarship fund to benefit low-income pre-K programs.

Other initiatives:

  • Kansas and North Carolina are considering bills to lower the mandatory school attendance age from 7 to 6.
  • Colorado, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania are mulling acts to expand or require full-day kindergarten.
  • Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah are considering legislation to expand and assess early literacy programs. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill.
  • A Minnesota bill would create a pilot grant program to support disadvantaged girls in exploring and pursuing STEM careers.
  • Hawaii’s docket includes legislation imposing a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages, syrup and powder (a “soda tax”) with funds used for school cooking, gardening, physical education, nutrition and health programs.
  • Tennessee will decide whether to prohibit standardized tests in Grade 2 and below, unless they are used for a diagnostic purpose or are required by federal law.

A couple of other notes:

  • Mississippi’s legislature has considered 12 bills so far this year, concerning a range of issues from enhancing ESL programs, to encouraging more parental involvement, to funding preschool programs, to lowering the compulsory attendance age to 5. All of them failed.
  • Some legislatures, such as Texas, meet only biennially in odd-numbered years, therefore will not consider legislation in 2018.


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