Monday, January 7, 2013

State Legislatures' Education Focus: Funding, Standards, Security

State government is more polarized than ever.  Only 14 states have divided governments with the governor’s office and at least one branch of the legislature controlled by different parties.  And half the states have veto-proof majorities in their legislatures.  Bipartisan cooperation likely will be even tougher to reach.

A wide variety of legislation will be introduced.  We’ll likely see a focus on funding, the new Common Core state standards, and school security.

  • Earlier this month, Congress decided on a two-month delay in dealing with spending issues as part of the deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts.  As a result, states are having difficulty drafting budgets and are less likely to spend money on anything not absolutely necessary.  Expect Congress to continue to kick the can down the road, as the saying goes, leaving states in a financial bind.
  • The vast majority of states adopted the Common Core standards – 46 for English/language arts; 45 for math.  Some Tea Party conservatives, who see the state-developed standards as a federal mandate, will call for opting out.  But increasingly, states are looking for ways to help students meet the new standards.  Formative assessments and adaptive learning programs will see increased attention.
  • In the wake of the tragic shootings in the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, some state legislatures will see bills to boost school security, and in some cases to allow teachers to carry guns. Indeed, half a dozen states already are looking at such legislation.  Few of these bills likely will become law, but a good deal of attention will be focused on the guns in schools.

 Two other issues likely will see attention by the states this year:

  • Technology will continue to attract interest – not only for its improvement of the education experience, but because many policymakers see laptops and tablets merely as cheaper alternatives to traditional textbooks.
  • State anti-union legislation will continue.  Some of it will impact teachers.

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