It has been a very busy six months since the launch of our 2015 advocacy campaigns. We’re proud to share this midyear update on the work of our local leaders across the network: the wins, the progress made and the hard-fought losses.
This update covers the four states in the 50CAN network—Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island—that have wrapped up their legislative sessions for the year. There’s a lot to be excited about, including:
- A big expansion of pre-K and major streamlining of teacher licensure in Minnesota.
- The first real reforms to Maryland’s charter law since 2003.
- A major overhaul of teacher evaluation in New York.
- An end to Rhode Island’s moratorium on school facilities funding.
This stoplight indicates a green light for an advocacy win, a yellow light for significant progress made and a red light for an advocacy loss. Read on to see what our inspiring local leaders have accomplished!
Expand high-quality choice by reforming the state’s charter law.
Governor Hogan signed a law that takes several important steps forward on charters, but there is still much work to be done. The law provides more flexibility in teacher certification, more transparency in local school funding, prioritized enrollment for disadvantaged children and more flexibility for high-performing schools, including staff selection and management.
Improve the principal development pipeline.
A new peer-to-peer principal mentoring program, developed by MarylandCAN, will be implemented in the 2015-2016 school year in partnership with Baltimore City Schools. This program is based on best practices from high-impact mentoring programs in large urban districts across the U.S.
Create pathways to licensure for out-of-state teachers.
The cornerstone of MinnCAN’s legislative agenda this year, Governor Dayton signed into law a major streamlining of the process through which experienced out-of-state teachers transfer their licenses to Minnesota. By clarifying requirements and honoring teachers’ professional experiences in other states, the law will help address teacher shortages across Minnesota, fill hard-to-staff positions, empower principals to hire the best candidates and increase teacher diversity.
Ensure student teachers in Minnesota have great mentors.
The Minnesota Legislature passed and Governor Dayton signed into law a new approach to helping ensure high-quality clinical experiences for students in teacher training programs. The law requires that student teachers be paired with mentors who have at least three years of classroom experience and are not on a professional improvement plan.
Continue the momentum from 2014 to provide high-quality pre-K access to Minnesota families.
This year’s budget includes an additional $48 million for early learning scholarships to help low-income 3- and 4-year-olds access high-quality pre-K. MinnCAN worked with 100+ partner organizations in the MinneMinds coalition to secure this increased investment and allow thousands of kids access to high-quality early education.
Empower charter school authorizers.
Flexibility for charter authorizers to better manage their schools was included in the House’s education omnibus bill, but did not make it through the Senate or into the final bill that Governor Dayton signed into law.
Empower school districts to keep great teachers in the classroom.
A proposal that would help school leaders protect their best educators during layoffs passed in the House, but was not considered in the Senate and did not make it into the final education omnibus bill.
Support tenure reform in state legislature.
Governor Cuomo signed into law a major overhaul of the New York state tenure system, which now requires New York teachers to be rated “effective” for three years in order to qualify for tenure with at least four years of classroom experience. In addition, a teacher cannot be rated “effective” overall if objective measures of student growth are not strong, and those rated ineffective for two years in a row will not be able to teach.
Lift the charter cap.
The New York state charter cap was lifted this legislative session, but only for New York City and only enough for short-term growth plans. In total, 25 new slots were added by the Legislature for new charter schools. The legislation also allows networks and prospective charter applicants to choose either the State Department of Education or the SUNY Charter Schools Institute as their authorizer.
Implement the education tax credit.
The education tax credit bill did not make it out of this year’s legislative session. Instead, the state implemented a two-year, $250 million reimbursement program for mandated state services for Catholic and other nonpublic schools.
Provide fair, sustainable school facilities aid to all Rhode Island public schools.
The Rhode Island Legislature implemented several key facilities policies this year, including an end to the school housing moratorium, the creation of a new School Building Authority and $20 million to fund school facilities renovation. However, public charter schools continue to receive inequitable reimbursements for facilities expenses.
Champion progress made in expanding school options and raising standards for all.
More than 1,000 families contacted their legislators this session to vote against bills that would place a moratorium on public charter school growth and mandate a local approver in charter applications. RI-CAN worked with partners to galvanize the movement, and at the end of the legislative session, the bills never made it to the governor. A long-term resolution to these issues will require reforming the state’s education funding formula in a way that is fair and equitable to all schools.
Vision 2020: investing for now, planning for then.
This year’s budget included a new investment in universal, full-day kindergarten, bringing it to over 1,000 children currently without a full-day option. The budget did not address a long-term growth strategy for charter schools in the state.
Change is never easy. This progress is the beginning of a much longer journey to bring meaningful opportunities to students in our states. Our other three CANs—New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania—will continue their advocacy work through their summer and fall legislative sessions. Stay tuned for more updates on their progress and the path ahead for kids!