Education

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Missouri Legislators Tackle Marriage Age, Abortion, and Charter Schools

 

The political news in Missouri is dominated by the scandal surrounding Governor Eric Greitens, who is facing a criminal trial and announced Tuesday he would resign effective Friday at 5 p.m. In the face of the media circus surrounding the governor, the work of governing must go on. Legislators recently completed work on a variety of bills for the year. Here are how some of the big issues fared during this year’s Missouri legislative session:

 

Marriage age: It will no longer be possible for someone under 16 to get married in Missouri. Legislators passed a bill that prohibits marriage under this age and requires anyone who is 16 or 17 to get his or her parents’ permission to get married. Anyone who is over 21 will not be able to marry anyone under 18.

 

Lieutenant governor appointment: The Senate passed a measure that would allow the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor if there is a vacancy in that office. The Senate would confirm this appointment. The House rejected this proposal, however, leaving unclear the process for filling a vacancy in that office. This issue was highlighted in the legislature because Gov. Greitens could have been removed from office. He has since announced his resignation, and the current lieutenant governor will assume the governorship.

 

Gas tax: Legislators voted to place a ballot measure before voters in November that would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon. The increase from the current tax rate of 17 cents per gallon to 27 cents per gallon would be phased in through 2022. The proceeds are slated to fund road projects and the highway patrol.

 

Charter schools: Currently, Missouri only allows charter schools to operate in Kansas, St. Louis, and unaccredited school districts. Legislation to expand charter schools statewide received support from two House committees but never received a vote from the full House.

 

Abortion: The House passed a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The Senate failed to take this measure up.

 

Non-discrimination: A House committee passed legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The full House never considered the bill, however.

 

Do you think that the marriage age should be set at 16? Should abortions after 20 weeks be banned? Do you support expanding the use of charter schools?

 

State Employee Pay Raise Hits West Virginia Budget

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Teachers in West Virginia Struck for nine days – the longest teaches’ strike in state history – and won a 5% pay increase. Then it was up to legislators to find money in the budget to fund the pay hike for not only teachers but all state employees. They did so, but other areas of the budget felt the hit.

 

Gov. Justice signed legislation that provided teachers with their 5% pay increase on March 6. Then a few days later legislators passed a state budget that included a 5% pay increase for all state employees. The salary increases cost $111 million. Other items demanded by teachers, such as concessions on health insurance increases, cost an additional $43 million.

 

To help offset the pay raises for state employees, legislators took the following budget actions:

  • A $46 million increase as requested by Gov. Justice for the Division of Commerce and the Department of Tourism will not be funded
  • $18 million in deferred maintenance projects will not be completed
  • $12 million transfer to the roads fund from the general fund will not happen
  • $13.5 million to shore up the state’s workers’ compensation fund will not be provided

 

The budget also calls for cuts to the Medicaid program, but it is likely that the governor will find a way to make that money up from elsewhere.

 

With the governor signing the budget, it puts the pay raise issue to rest for the time being. However, there is concern over whether revenue projects are correct. If revenue is less than anticipated, it will cause problems in the coming fiscal year.

 

Do you support West Virginia state employees receiving a 5% pay raise? Or do you think that legislators had to cut too much from the state’s other budget priorities to fund this pay hike?

 

 

Arizona Key Votes – Education & Kids

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Arizona earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 1036, Make guidelines for state charter school agency stricter: Passed 30 to 0 in the Senate on February 20 and 35 to 22 in the House on April 17

To add new administrative requirements to the operational guidelines of the State Board for Charter Schools, including new opportunities to challenge rules and regulations and new requirements for responding to rule challenges.

 

House Bill 2388, Modify state college grant program by easing some requirements and tightening others: Passed 46 to 12 in the House on February 21 and 26 to 0 in the Senate on April 19

To extend the life of a government program that gives state taxpayer subsidies to college students, while modifying certain program qualifications including more stringent GPA and graduation time frame requirements, expanding program eligibility to other fields, and other similar changes.

 

Senate Bill 1431, Expand school vouchers: Passed 16 to 13 in the Senate and 31 to 28 in the House on April 6

To expand eligibility for the state's Empowerment Scholarship Account program to every student in Arizona by August 2020. However, while any student could apply, the voucher-like program would still only be able to accommodate about 3 percent of the statewide school population.

 

Senate Bill 1204, Allow public to review high school text books: Passed 21 to 9 in the Senate on February 13

To require school districts to provide an opportunity for public comment for proposed high school textbooks prior to approval.

 

Senate Bill 1080, Ban young drivers using cell phones: Passed 24 to 6 in the Senate on February 13 and 32 to 24 in the House on April 20

To prohibit instructional permit holders from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device and prohibit provisional licensees under age 18 from using those devices other than for audible navigation.

 

Senate Bill 1377, Allow cannabidoil to treat pediatric epilepsy: Passed 29 to 1 in the Senate

To allow any compound, mixture or preparation that contains cannabidiol to be prescribed in the state if federally approved and legalized by the federal FDA & DEA.

 

Key Virginia Votes on Education

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Virginia earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 1283, Allow state to establish charter schools: Passed 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 7 and 54 to 43 in the House on February 20

To allow the state Board of Education to establish regional charter schools. Current law gives the power to establish charter schools to local boards of education. In effect, this law would make it easier for charter schools to open in Virginia.

 

House Bill 1536, Ban grade school suspensions and expulsions: Passed 49 to 47 in the House on February 6 and 33 to 7 on February 13

To prohibit students up to third grade from being suspended for more than five days or expelled except for drug, firearm, and certain other criminal offenses.

 

House Resolution 431, Encourage college free speech: Passed 64 to 31 in the House on February 22

To encourage public higher education institutions to protect free speech and develop policies that outline how they will deal with public policy controversies.

 

House Bill 1605, Provide parents with funding for education expenses: Passed 49 to 47 in the House on February 7 and 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 21

To establish an education savings accounts that parents can use to pay for education expenses such as books, tuition, or fees at private schools that do not discriminate by race. The money for these accounts would come from their local school division and be equal to a certain percentage of the per-pupil funding in that district.

 

House Bill 1578, Allow home schoolers to participate in school sports (the “Tebow Bill”): Passed 60 to 38 in the House on January 24 and 22 to 18 in the Senate on February 13

To allow a home schooled student to participate in interscholastic programs, such as sports, offered by public schools.

 

Senate Bill 1428, Expand education tax credits for students with disabilities: Passed 23 to 17 in the Senate on February 3 and 61 to 35 in the House on February 7

To remove the requirement that a student with a disability be enrolled in public school to be able to use the education improvement scholarships tax credit. The bill also increases the amount of the tax credit from 100% to 400% of the per-pupil funding amount given by the state to the local school district.

 

Senate Bill 1242, Establish school choice program: Failed 20 to 20 in the Senate on February 6

To allow parents of a public school students to receive a savings account from their local school district that can be used to pay for a variety of educational expenses, including tuition and fees at a private school. Participating private schools could not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

 

Charter Schools Key Area of Disagreement in Virginia Gubernatorial Race

 

The direction of Virginia education policy may be decided in a few weeks. The commonwealth’s gubernatorial candidates have very different views on how Virginia’s children should be educated. Republican Ed Gillespie supports giving parents wider options for their children like charter schools, home schooling, and others. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam wants to focus on providing more funding for traditional K-12 education.

 

Their differences are very stark when it comes to charter schools, which are public schools operating with more freedom than traditional school settings. There is support for charter schools across the political spectrum, with many Democrats joining Republicans in backing them as an alternative to traditional schools. However, Virginia does not have robust charter school programs – it has only eight in existence. Governor Terry McAuliffe has opposed legislation that would give the state power to open charter schools, a move that would curtail the authority of local boards of education to stop these schools from opening.

 

Proponents of charter schools see them as a way to give children who are struggling in traditional school settings more options to succeed. Opponents contend that charter schools take money away from the school system, giving a few students an advantage at the expense of others.

 

Lt. Governor Northam is married to a school teacher and is not shy about expressing his skepticism of alternative educational options. When it comes to vouchers for private schools or expanding charter schools, he says, “With regards to charter schools or vouchers, we need to make sure that we fund K-12 first before we move on to other things like charter schools.” He also objects to charter schools for monetary reasons, saying, “the charter proposals seen in Virginia would ultimately divert much-needed funding from school divisions, often those that are in the most need.”

 

Ed Gillespie takes the opposite view. He embraces charter schools as part of a wider plan to expand educational choice in the commonwealth. On his website, he says, “Through more opportunities, we can improve public schools and provide families greater choices. As governor, I will diversify educational opportunities by strengthening our charter schools, expanding the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit, establishing education savings accounts and promoting policies that are fair to homeschool families — like the Tebow Bill.”

 

The Republican legislature has passed legislation along the lines of what Gillespie is proposing in his educational platform. If he is elected, it seems likely that many of his ideas would be popular with legislators. If voters return a GOP legislature but give Lt. Governor Northam the governorship, Virginians can expect another four years of stalemate over school choice policy.

 

Do you support focusing on funding traditional schools over charter schools or vouchers? Or should Virginia expand its charter school network to give children more choices?

 

Missouri House Bill 2

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Missouri House Bill 2, Appropriations for Education: Passed 119 to 34 in the state House on April 6, 2017.

 

To spend $6,029,363,067 for various educational expenses.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Missouri House Bill 2!

 

 

Are Sales Tax Holidays Good Policy?

 

It’s back-to-school season, so that means parents are rushing to stores while clutching school supply lists.  In some states, they may get a brief reprieve from paying sales tax on clothes or notebooks. This type of sales tax holiday may sound like a great deal for consumers, but some experts say it is bad policy.


Sales tax holidays are promoted as a way to spur retail sales as well as help families afford necessary school supplies. Politicians in 16 states have enacted these sales tax holidays, and they cover a variety of goods.

 

Bob Peterson, a state senator from Ohio, co-sponsored legislation in that state creating a sales tax holiday this year. He says, “Ohioans saved millions of dollars on back-to-school items during the prior Sales Tax Holidays, and stores saw significant boosts in statewide retail sales.”

 

According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, however, these supposed benefits are an illusion. Here are some of the problems with this brief window of tax-free shopping, according to the foundation’s experts:

 

“Most sales tax holidays involve politicians picking products and industries to favor with exemptions, arbitrarily discriminating among products and across time, and distorting consumer decisions… Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a ‘holiday’ from its tax system, it is an implicit recognition that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round.”

 

What do you think? Do you support sales tax holidays? Or do you think that these holidays are gimmicks that have no real positive effect?

 

Virginia Senate Bill 1240

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Virginia Senate Bill 1240, Override Veto of Allowing Students to Take Online Schooling: Failed 21 to 19 in the state Senate on April 5, 2017.

 

To override the governor’s veto of a bill to establish the Virginia Virtual School, which will serve up to 5,000 Virginia students. This online education must meet state standards and will be available beginning 2019.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia Senate Bill 1240!

 

 

Arizona House Bill 2388

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 2388, Modify State College Grant Program by Easing Some Requirements and Tightening Others: Passed 26 to 0 in the state Senate on April 19, 2017.

 

To extend the life of a government program that gives state taxpayer subsidies to college students, while modifying certain program qualifications including more stringent GPA and graduation time frame requirements, expanding program eligibility to other fields, and other similar changes.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona House Bill 2388!

 

 

Wisconsin Senate Bill 293

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Wisconsin, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 293, Make Changes to School Choice Programs: Passed 67 to 30 in the state Assembly on June 21, 2017.

 

To require that private schools participating in school choice programs conduct background checks on employees, to remove certain requirements such as high attendance standards for private schools participating in the program, and to eliminate testing requirements on private schools that have a small number of school choice students attending, among other things.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Wisconsin Senate Bill 293!

 

 

New Hampshire House Bill 604

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Nevada, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 604, Kill Bill to Subsidize Community College Tuition: Passed 188 to 161 in the state House on February 15, 2017

 

Kill Bill to Subsidize Community College Tuition

 

Comment below to share what you think of New Hampshire House Bill 604!

 

 

Arizona Senate Bill 1293

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 1293, Remove licensing requirements for small vocational training programs: Passed 29 to 0 in the state Senate on February 20, 2017 and 43 to 12 in the state House on April 20, 2017

 

To exempt private instructional programs that have fewer than 40 in-class or online hours and charge less than $1,000 from state licensing requirements.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona Senate Bill 1293!

 

Pennsylvania House Bill 121

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Pennsylvania, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 121: Mandate opioid abuse curriculum: Passed 196 to 0 in the state House on June 26, 2017

 

To require that students in grades 6 through 12 must be given courses in the prevention of opioid abuse and that the state must develop model curriculum for such instruction.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania House Bill 121!

 

New Hampshire Senate Bill 44

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in New Hampshire, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 44, Ban common core: Passed 14 to 9 in the state Senate on February 23, 2017

 

To prohibit the state from requiring implementation of common core standards.

 

Comment below to share what you think of New Hampshire Senate Bill 44!

 

Michigan Senate Bill 401

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Michigan, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 401, Overhaul school employee retirement system: Passed 21 to 17 in the state Senate on June 15, 2017

 

To replace the current school pension system with one that requires more cost-sharing by new employees, and contains provisions intended to limit state management practices responsible for the $29.1 billion of unfunded liabilities in the status quo system. New employees could choose instead to receive substantial employer contributions to 401(k) accounts. If the overhauled defined benefit component is not properly funded then enrollees would have to pay half the cost of correcting this, and if underfunding exceeds specified levels this option would be closed to new hires.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Michigan Senate Bill 401!

 

Iowa House Bill 642

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 642, To suspend the statewide report card for public schools for two years: Failed 42 to 55 in the state House on April 17, 2017

 

Starting with the 2015 school year, the Iowa Department of Education has released report cards for public schools in the state. This amendment to the bill that funds the education department would suspend further report cards until the 2020-21 school year, thereby allowing for two years of data to be collected on a new statewide student assessment.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 642!

 

New Hampshire House Bill 103

 

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House Bill 103, Mandate notice of objectionable course material: Passed 203 to 51 in the state House on February 2, 2017 and 14 to 9 in the state Senate on March 30, 2017

 

To require school districts to provide advance notice to parents and legal guardians of course material involving discussion of human sexuality or human sexual education.

 

Comment below to share what you think of New Hampshire House Bill 103!

 

Virginia House Bill 1536

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1536, Ban grade school suspensions and expulsions: Passed 49 to 47 in the state House on February 6, 2017 and 33 to 7 in the state Senate on February 13, 2017

 

To prohibit students up to third grade from being suspended for more than five days or expelled except for drug, firearm, and certain other criminal offenses.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia House Bill 1536!

 

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 240

 

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Assembly Bill 240: Strengthen school attendance requirements for Wisconsin Works recipients’ kids: Passed 62 to 35 in the state Assembly on May 10, 2017

 

To impose penalties on Wisconsin Works participants if their children are habitually truant or fail to meet school attendance requirements. Current law requires that children of Wisconsin Works participants must be enrolled in school.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 240!

 

North Carolina House Bill 800

 

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House Bill 800, Allow some enrollment preferences at charter schools: Passed 72 to 47 in the state House on April 25, 2017

 

To allow enrollment preferences at charter schools for children of permanent employees of a "charter partner," which is a corporation, partnership, or nonprofit that gave land, provided a building, made renovations, or donated technology to a charter school. The bill would cap the preferences to 50% of enrollment. It would also let charter school boards contract with outside education organizations to provide teachers, and require State Board of Education decisions over granting a charter to be made in 90 days of a charter application submission.

 

Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 800!

 

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