State Actions Update – October 2020

Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Highlights:

Arizona

Governor Doug Ducey allocated an additional $500,000 of GEER Funding to A for Arizona for their Expansion and Innovation Fund. To date, Governor Ducey has invested $1.5 million in GEER funding to this program. The Expansion and Innovation Fund provides grants to school leaders to implement creative solutions and reimagine learning to best serve students this school year. In the first round of applications, 18 schools were awarded grants. The application for the second round of grants is now open. 

During the State Board of Education’s August meeting, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced that spring statewide assessments will be conducted in Arizona. While cautioning that she did not yet have a clear idea of how the assessments will be administered, she indicated that assessments are Arizona’s best way to measure how students have learned with distance learning plans.                               

Connecticut

The Connecticut Department of Education announced that the state intends to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment in spring 2021. Testing results for the 2020-2021 school year will allow the state to gather data on where students are in achievement and growth, and how to best move forward to meet their educational needs.

Florida

The First District Court of Appeal overruled the lower court’s decision in DeSantis v Florida Education Association, recognizing the importance of in-person learning. In a statement, ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque said, “Parents know what environment would work best for their child, and they deserve access to all options.” ExcelinEd filed an Amicus Curiae brief in the case.

The Florida Department of Education said the spring 2021 testing season will likely be maintained, although there may be added flexibility in how the tests are administered. With statewide assessments in place this school year, families, teachers and policymakers can use this data to inform critical decision making.

Idaho

Idaho Governor Brad Little directed $50 million of federal CARES Act funding to create the Strong Students, Strong Families grant program. Parents of Idaho public, private, parochial and homeschool students in grades K-12 can apply for $1,500 per student to pay for digital tools, learning support and supplemental resources so they do not fall behind on their education. In the first 24 hours of the program’s launch, more than 14,000 applications for 29,000 students were received.

Louisiana

To address the increasing interest in providing students more options through microschools, the Louisiana State Legislature passed HCR 26. This resolution by Representative Barbara Frieberg passed the special session and will now require the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to define and study issues relative to microschools in the state.

Legislation to provide parents with an income tax deduction up to $5,000 for education expenses incurred during the pandemic has been sent to Governor John Bell Edwards for approval. House Bill 20 by Representative Rick Edmonds will lessen the burden on parents by giving them tax deductions for expenses related to in-person facilitation of virtual education delivered by public or nonpublic schools.

During a special session, the House and Senate Education Committee approved House Bill 42, by Representative Mark Wright, which would have expanded educational opportunity for Louisiana families by improving the state’s open enrollment policy. Too often, parent requests to enroll their children in another public school are denied, and they have a limited ability to appeal that decision. This legislation would have helped parents find the best fit for their child by streamlining those appeals and clarifying their rights in pursuing this educational option. HB 42 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for additional review. While in committee, the legislation was amended to become a study on the appeals process for parents throughout the state. When the amended HB 42 was brought up in the Senate for final passage, objections were raised, and it was left pending in the Senate.

Massachusetts

Commissioner Jeff Riley announced at a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting that he hopes to administer the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment in the spring. Attaining results from student testing will allow Massachusetts to monitor and evaluate students’ academic progress through the continuity of long-term data and also provide parents with more information to make the best decisions for their children.

Michigan

The Michigan Senate filed a bipartisan package of bills related to early literacy, which includes Senate Bills 1172, 1173, 1174 and 1175. This legislation would establish an advisory committee on dyslexia, improve the state’s reading standards to recognize dyslexia and other disorders, require the use of a universal screener, and emphasize the science of reading in teacher prep programs and teacher licensing.

Mississippi

The Mississippi Department of Education announced that statewide assessments will be administered in the 2020-2021 school year. In a blog post, the department said, “This school year, statewide assessments take on an even greater importance because they will provide a current measure of student progress while helping us understand how COVID-19 disruptions affected student learning. This information will help direct policy decisions moving forward.”  

Nebraska

ExcelinEd testified at a Nebraska education committee hearing on the impact of the pandemic on education. They discussed how other states are using federal and state funding to empower families during this pandemic and beyond through education scholarship accounts, tax credit scholarships and grants to families created with GEER funding.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Education said the state is moving forward with plans to administer assessments online this school year, as it is crucial to have the data to understand each student’s academic performance.  

Pennsylvania

The House Education Committee held a hearing on the creation of “Back on Track” Scholarships, which would direct $500 million in federal CARES Act funding to families to offset educational costs as the pandemic continues. House Bill 2696, sponsored by Representative Clint Owlett, would provide $1,000 to low-income families for approved education-related expenses, such as tutoring, curriculum, therapy and devices.

South Carolina

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Governor Henry McMaster could not use federal CARES Act funding to expand educational options for families. In a statement, ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque said, “I have faith that South Carolina’s leaders will continue to work toward making sure no family is denied an educational opportunity based on their income.” ExcelinEd filed an Amicus Curiae brief in the case.

Texas

Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency announced the creation of the Supplementary Special Education Services program to provide funding directly to families of students with special needs to offset learning disruptions. The one-time allocation will provide eligible families with up to $1,500 to purchase supplemental supports such as tutoring, therapy and digital resources. Nearly 59,000 students statewide are eligible to benefit from this new program.

Commissioner Mike Morath announced that he intends to administer the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. The assessments will serve as a vital tool for the state, districts and families to understand the breadth and depth of student’s progress over the past few months.

Tennessee

Governor Bill Lee announced that Tennessee will conduct statewide assessments in the spring. In a statement, ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque said, “Continuing assessments will ensure parents have the information on how well their child is being prepared during this COVID-impacted school year.”

Solution Areas:

Early Literacy, Public Education Choice, School Accountability

Topics:

Assessments, Course Access, COVID-19