In January, we announced the policy goals our local leaders are pursuing across the CAN network this year. Today I’m pleased to share our progress made in the first states to wrap up their legislative sessions: Georgia and New Mexico.

We rate our progress on a three-part scale: 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 the community.

GeorgiaCAN

It was a year of big wins for the GeorgiaCAN team! GeorgiaCAN worked to restore funding for low-income students to take the AP exam, nearly double the student scholarship tax credit program and secure more fair funding for charter schools. Not only did they achieve these three policy victories for students in the Peach State, they also supported two additional key policy developments: the reduction of early-learning suspensions (HB 740) and, for the first time in decades, fully funding  the state’s education funding formula.

GeorgiaCAN was able to:

Support high-quality school options by ensuring all public schools are equitably funded and eliminating the funding disparities public charter schools face.

WIN:
The GeorgiaCAN team and charter school partners across the state successfully advocated for the passage of HB 787, which increases funding for state charter schools by $18 million. The legislation also uses a new funding formula that brings state-approved charters closer to a level of equity between their funding and that of their surrounding traditional public schools. The bill also establishes a grant program to replicate high-performing charters that focus on serving low-income students, students with special needs and students in rural communities.

Pass legislation to raise the cap of the tuition tax-credit scholarship program to benefit more children seeking an educational alternative and increase the transparency of the program.

WIN:
A major victory for students, GeorgiaCAN worked with coalition partners for more than a year to pass HB 217, which nearly doubled the student scholarship tax credit program by raising the cap from $58 million to $100 million annually. The legislation also included increased transparency and better annual reporting, requiring student scholarship organizations to disclose both the number of students they serve in income brackets based on the federal poverty level and the average size of scholarships awarded by income bracket.

Restore the AP exam subsidy for low-income students.

WIN:
GeorgiaCAN worked with the state legislature to restore funding to allow low-income students to take an AP exam in a non-STEM field at no cost. Through funding in HB 683 and HB 684, all low-income students in the state can now take one STEM and one non-STEM AP exam for free.

NewMexicoKidsCAN

In the Land of Enchantment, NewMexicoKidsCAN launched not only their organization, but their first legislative campaign as well! NewMexicoKidsCAN was thrilled to support teacher pay initiatives that increase minimum teacher salaries by a total of $16.6 million across the state and provide exemplary teachers with a $5,000 bonus. This advancement was signed into law by the governor last month and will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year. While the team was disappointed to not advance their teacher pathways bill through the legislative session, they have been working with the state authorizer and Public Education Department to replicate high-performing charter schools for the first time in the state’s history and hold the state accountable to teacher equity and preparedness plans.

NewMexicoKidsCAN worked to:

Ensure the New Mexico Public Education Department completes annual updates to the New Mexico Educator Equity Plan and makes the updates available to the public.

PROGRESS MADE: A yearlong goal, NewMexicoKidsCAN will continue their work on transparency for the Educator Equity Plan through the summer.

Ensure the New Mexico Public Education Department releases Teacher Prep Report Cards for all New Mexico teacher preparation programs and establishes the process in administrative rule prior to the end of the current administration.

PROGRESS MADE: The Department of Public Education released the draft administrative rule for this issue last month, and NewMexicoKidsCAN will continue their work throughout the year to champion Teacher Prep Report Cards and the statewide administrative rule.

Strengthen New Mexico authorizing practices to ensure charter schools are held accountable to clear, objective and measurable performance outcomes to earn the right to continue serving students.

PROGRESS MADE: This spring, the New Mexico statewide authorizer voted to replicate the best-performing charter school in New Mexico, marking the first time a charter school will be replicated in the state and setting a high standard for future growth. NewMexicoKidsCAN will continue to engage with authorizers on developing a new performance framework that will set the vision for future charter success in the state.

Pass legislation to create an additional pathway to allow highly effective and exemplary teachers to earn a Level III license without a master’s degree.

LOSS: NewMexicoKidsCAN was successful in getting their first legislative bill introduced during short session, but HB 177 did not advance beyond the House committee. The team will work on improving pathways for exceptional teachers during interim committee meetings and will renew their legislative support of the goal in 2019.

We know that the end of a legislative session or the passage of a bill is not the end of our work, but rather a step in a continuing journey to bring a high-quality education to all kids, regardless of their address. We aim to learn from our successes and setbacks in Georgia and New Mexico as we chart the path forward. We look forward to sharing our next update on our work in Connecticut, Hawaii and Tennessee next month. In the meantime, 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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