Earlier this year, we released the 39 statewide policy goals that our local leaders are working towards to ensure that all kids receive a high-quality education. Now that the legislative sessions are finished in Georgia, New Mexico and Virginia, we are excited to share an update on the goals in these states.

 

The 50CAN network uses a 3-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.

NewMexicoKidsCAN

In 2018, NewMexicoKidsCAN launched their campaign. This year, they expanded on that progress by securing an increase of $450 million in public education funding for increased teacher salaries and ensuring that many of those funds would be dedicated for at risk students and extended learning programs. They also ensured that New Mexico did not institute a charter cap or charter moratorium.

NewMexicoKidsCAN worked to:

Ensure New Mexico families continue to have quality school options.

WIN: NewMexicoKidsCAN helped to prevent any limits on charter school options, including a charter moratorium or charter cap by mobilizing 500 constituents to contact their legislators to advocate for charter school preservation.

Ensure that expanded funding benefits kids who need it most.

WIN: By working with members of the Legislative Finance Committee, NewMexicoKidsCAN secured an increase in K-12 spending by over $450 million for the 2019-2020 school year – $119 million for K3+, a program that will extend the school year by 25 days for the most struggling schools, and $62 million for extended learning programs.

Sustain systems that provide families and educators with critical information.

PROGRESS MADE: The Governor’s first executive order required that the state move away from PARCC, but NewMexicoKidsCAN successfully stopped a total ban of PARCC in state law. The state is now working on an assessment transition by hosting community meetings and NewMexicoKidsCAN is participating.

PROGRESS MADE: While the Governor’s second executive order states that PARCC scores cannot be used in teacher evaluation, the legislature did not agree on a path forward for teacher evaluation. As a result, the Public Education Department will begin working on a new system to pilot. The NewMexicoKidsCAN team is looking forward to working to ensure that members of the transition task force include meaningful measures focused on student outcomes.

LOSS: Senate Bill 229 repealed the A-F school grading system and replaced it with a dashboard intended to capture school effectiveness on a broad set of criteria. NewMexicoKidsCAN is working hard to secure a position on the task force to build the new dashboard.


GeorgiaCAN

After a phenomenally successful 2018 legislative session that will help drive school choice in Georgia for years to come, the 2019 session was a year of building further political alliances for education reform. GeorgiaCAN worked hard to accomplish several important policy wins. With the belief that our school systems should evolve as the world around us evolves, the team is continuing to advocate for sustainable, innovative solutions that work for all kids.

Georgia worked to:

Enact policies to increase the number of high quality charter school seats.

WIN: In the 2019 legislative session, GeorgiaCAN worked with coalition partners to secure a $2 million increase in the existing charter facility fund line item, more than doubling the support the state gives to charter schools from its existing $1.5 million.

Support kids with dyslexia through screening, support and teacher preparation.

WIN: GeorgiaCAN was proud to be part of the Decoding Dyslexia coalition which supported SB 48, legislation that will lead to early detection and support of dyslexic students. The bill passed the Senate 55-0, the House 161-2 and is now off to the Governor for his signature.

Increase access to computer science curriculum.

WIN: GeorgiaCAN, as a part of the CS4GA coalition, helped develop SB 108, which mandated computer science course offerings in middle and high school as well as supports teacher preparation in this field. Not only did the coalition successfully achieve passage of SB 108, but the team also attained $750,000 in the FY2020 budget to provide grants for professional development programs for teachers providing instruction in computer science courses. GeorgiaCAN will continue working to ensure that all students have access to explore computer science and the skills needed for a changing economy.

Support children with special needs by providing additional support and flexibility within special needs scholarships.

LOSS: Unfortunately, legislation to improve the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship program did not advance this year, but GeorgiaCAN is looking forward to bringing a bill forward again in 2020.


Additional progress in Georgia beyond core goals

In 2019, GeorgiaCAN supported several student-centric policies outside of our primary legislative priorities. The team promoted HB 59, which allows military families to register for public schools after relocation orders, and HB 68, which forbids an accrediting agency from also serving as a student scholarship organization. GeorgiaCAN also worked to advance an Education Scholarship Account proposal. Though the legislation narrowly failed 25-28 in the Senate, the issue is still eligible for passage next year. Finally, the team continues to work with legislative leaders on two long-term priorities  – pension sustainability and education funding reform.


Virginia Excels

Virginia Excels kicked off their first legislative session with Taikein Cooper leading as Executive Director. The 50CAN network is looking forward to big things from him as he heads our efforts in The Old Dominion State.

Ensure the school funding formula distributes resources fairly based on student needs.

LOSS: While Virginia Excels succeeded in starting this critical conversation about reforming the way Virginia schools are funded, there was little forward progress in the legislature in 2019. As next year will be a budget year for the state, however, the team believes major change in school funding is in the cards for 2020.  Meanwhile, Virginia Excels supported a budget amendment that raised teacher salaries by 5%.

With each legislative session, the 50CAN network is continuing to push forward to ensure that all kids receive a high-quality education, regardless of their address. Completing a goal does not mean that our work is finished – rather, we learn from our accomplishments and setbacks to continually move forward. Stay updated on the progress of our campaign goals throughout the year by following along 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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