Throughout the spring, our 50CAN campaigns all around the country have been working tirelessly on behalf of better schools for all kids, and we previously reported on our progress in Georgia, New Mexico and Virginia. We believe in bold policies that bring real change and not letting our elected officials make excuses that delay getting results for our children. Three of our state campaigns, Tennessee, Connecticut and Hawaii recently ended their legislative sessions. Check out how our empowered state advocates have achieved historic wins for parental choice and school innovation in Tennessee, Connecticut and Hawaii as we move into the summer months!

The 50CAN network uses a three-part scale to measure our progress: green for a policy win, yellow for significant progress made towards a goal and red for a policy loss. Read on to see what our inspiring local leaders have been working on at the state Capitol and in their communities.

TennesseeCAN

Countless hours of hard work have paid off with big wins for students across Tennessee. TennesseeCAN worked to expand options for kids, secured funding for charter school facilities, and protected the education programs that have been rocketing the Volunteer State up the ranks of education attainment. TennesseeCAN was able to:

Expand school choice options.


WIN:
HB939/SB795 created an innovative Education Savings Account (ESA) program that will enable parents to customize their child’s education, directing funding to the schools, courses, programs and services of their choice. ESAs create a personal approach to education, where the ultimate goal is maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities. The program will serve at-risk families in underperforming schools, and will be piloted in Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Continue the state’s investment in the Charter School Facilities Grant Program.


WIN:
Governor Lee’s first budget made critical investments in education in the Volunteer State, with an overall budget of $6.5 billion for education. Key highlights of educational funding included $12 million for charter schools to purchase and maintain their facilities, doubling the 2018 budget.

Ensure existing reforms from the previous administration are protected.


WIN:
TennesseeCAN and coalition partners staunchly opposed several pieces of legislation seeking to roll back important education reforms from the previous eight years. HB66/SB373 aimed to lower the impact of value-added growth scores for teachers of untested subjects. This would have lessened meaningful evaluation based on multiple measures. HB 1048/SB876 would have severely damaged Tennessee’s accountability system, requiring 2 years of successful assessment implementation before assessment data could be used for any accountability purposes. Finally, TennesseeCAN successfully opposed HB383/SB488 which would have required the usage of the ACT, ACT Aspire or SAT suites of assessments, instead of state-mandated assessments, to test students in grades 9-12. These assessments are not aligned to Tennessee state standards and would have reduced the amount of data the state has on student achievement.

ConnCAN

The ConnCAN team achieved an impressive, student-focused win this legislative session, increasing the diversity of teachers and administrators throughout the state, while also continuing the process to expand funding of schools of choice, including charters and magnets. ConnCAN worked to:

Give superintendents flexibility to increase the diversity of their educators.

WIN: ConnCAN collaborated with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to increase the percentage of teachers of color in Connecticut classrooms. In addition to the social-emotional and relationship building benefits of having a more diverse teacher workforce, a recent study found that “black students who are exposed to one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college. Those who had two black teachers were 32 percent more likely to enroll in college.” Now, Connecticut has a yearly target of 250 additional minority teachers (of which 30% are men), expanded reciprocity agreements with all fifty states, flexible certification requirements for shortage areas (STEM, special education, ELL) and mortgage and scholarship incentives, among others. New legislation also ensures that culturally responsive pedagogy training is integrated into teacher preparation programs and professional development.

Equitably fund charter schools.

PROGRESS MADE: This legislative session, ConnCAN won funding increases for public charter schools, with a 7% increase over the next two years. Magnet schools received a modest increase to their budgets, as well. While this is an important step forward, ConnCAN believes Connecticut’s current funding formula falls short. The team will continue to fight for a streamlined funding formula that includes all public schools, rather than placing magnets and charters on separate line-items.

Connect curriculum development and career and technical education to emerging and high-need careers.

LOSS: ConnCAN worked closely with the business community and policymakers to advance crucial legislation that will help ensure Connecticut is preparing students with coursework that aligns with our modern economy. The legislation passed the House with strong support but did not clear the Senate before the session concluded. The team will continue collaborating with partners to improve pathways that connect classrooms to careers  and help kids gain the skills necessary to fill high-demand jobs in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

HawaiiKidsCAN

In 2019, our advocates in Hawaii worked to build relationships with key education champions. While their bills did not find legislative success this session, HawaiiKidsCAN took serious ground in their work to promote high quality public school options and CTE pathways, and these goals are still alive via tactics engaging the Hawaii Board of Education. HawaiiKidsCAN fought to:

Expand access and transparency for public school choice options.

LOSS: HCR 11 would have called for the state auditor’s office to perform audits that would bring more transparency to the Department of Education’s (DOE) work on school decisions related to geographic exceptions. Geographic exceptions are the main process in Hawaii for public school choice. Since no public data is currently available, HawaiiKidsCAN feels that access to this data is a critical first step to determine whether all Hawaii kids are getting access a school that works best for them. This information could help guide needed changes to this system so that it is a more fair process for all families. Despite the bill’s failure to reach the House floor, HawaiiKidsCAN is meeting with partner principals to get a better sense of their specific experiences and challenges with the process of open enrollment. The team has also publicly raised this issue with the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education to access the same information through different channels.

Persuade the State of Hawaii to use its existing school leader alternative certification program to fill staffing gaps in its schools.


LOSS:
HCR 12 would have called for an audit looking into why there has been little progress in setting multiple alternative routes into school leadership. While HawaiiKidsCAN failed to advance this legislation to seek an audit of the program, they have actively raised this issue with the State Board of Education and leaders with the State Department of Educationto make progress on this goal without needing legislation or an audit.

Ease regulations preventing public school students from accessing beneficial internships.

LOSS: HB406 and SB 365 sought to remove the government red tape that stops Hawaii students from having access to valuable  internships and provide financial incentives to schools when students obtain certifications in high-growth industries. The legislation aimed to align the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), Workforce Development Council, DOE and the University of Hawaii system behind a shared vision of what academic courses align with regional economic needs in high-growth, high-wage industries. HawaiiKidsCAN’s mobilization efforts directly generated nearly two-thirds of all testimony received in support for the bill, including student, parent, educator and community partner voices. The legislation did clear the Senate and HawaiiKidsCAN succeeded in getting public statements of support for key components of the legislation.

Provide financial incentives to schools when students obtain industry certifications in high growth industries.

LOSS: SB 365 had a bold plan to create incentives for schools that aligned their industry certification programs with high-growth, high-wage industries. Unfortunately, DBEDT indicated that they were unprepared to execute this unprecedented initiative at this time, as this work would require seamless alignment between multiple state departments, but this was only the first time HawaiiKidsCAN pushed this innovative idea. While SB365 died in the House, HawaiiKidsCAN was still able to mobilize a broad coalition of cross-sector stakeholders in areas such as computer science and technology to continue building momentum in our schools for all students to have access to learning experiences that will prepare them for the jobs of the future.

In our next update this summer, we look forward to sharing progress on our work in Delaware and North Carolina. You can always follow along with the work our advocates are doing #FromtheField on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Marc Porter Magee Ph.D is the CEO and founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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