Tag Archives: State Budgets

Ah, a New Year: Iowa Report

This post is written by NCTE’s Iowa P12 policy analyst James Davis. 

JimDavis200607 Holding Journal - chestIn November and December, education organizations prepared for a daunting 2017; while not prescient, their work was warranted. Iowa’s November elections had substantial implications for pre-K through higher education, especially for teacher retention and recruitment. Legislative targets include dismantling a collective bargaining law in effect since 1975 (health care, contract arbitration, and job-performance grievance procedures are at risk); limiting fiscal responsibility to the public employee retirement system; teacher licensure and credentialing.

Many educators, including those in teacher preparation, see the last-mentioned–an attack on teacher licensure and credentialing–as something that could lead to lower quality staffing (including the possibility of long-term substitutes), and ultimately, to privatization of schools. Budget shortfalls, even with the existence of a robust “rainy day fund,” are the handy rationale. As Iowa and surrounding states face teacher shortages, making the profession less desirable hardly seems a logical strategy.

The same budget rationale affects other matters, including “initiatives once touted as ways to better Iowa schools” (DMR 1/17/17). A controversial third-grade retention law is to take effect in 2018, but the Iowa Department of Education has not requested funding for the intensive summer-reading program alternative specified in the statute. Educators have questioned the efficacy of the approach, which could be pushed back (likely), seriously reconsidered, and perhaps repealed. A second initiative was to replace the Iowa Assessment Program with Smarter Balanced Assessments in the 2017-18 school year. Legislators question availability of funding for the computer-based exams, even as some lawmakers and educators question the way the Smarter Balanced program was selected. Despite alleged commitment to alignment between Iowa Core standards and state assessment, the program seems to be in jeopardy—the Governor has asked the Department to put a hold on implementation, and has requested fewer state budget provisions for a start in fiscal year 2019 than the Department had requested for 2018.

On a less gloomy note, implementation continues for support of teacher leaders and leadership. Social Studies standards are near implementation. Many teachers maintain professional grounding in the presence of an Iowa Core. Good work continues in schools and classrooms, even with the legislature in session!

One change will occur when the current Iowa Governor begins service as the US Ambassador to China. The current Lieutenant Governor will become the first woman Governor in Iowa history. Educators struggle to find reason to believe it will make any difference.

Jim Davis began teaching in southwest Missouri as an NCTE and affiliate member, attending his first annual convention in Milwaukee in 1968. Now in his 50th year in our profession, he teaches English education and directs the Iowa Writing Project at the University of Northern Iowa.

What Happened in Your State this September?

capitol buildingThis past month, fifteen policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Higher Education

Stephen Ferruci previews a bill in Connecticut that would help undocumented students “access institutional financial assistance.”

Dan Melzer describes legislation that passed in California, awaiting the governor’s signature, in AB 1690 Outlines Minimum Standards for Adjunct Instructors at California Community Colleges.

Michael Gos continues his series in Campus Carry Law VI, noting that the injunction requested by three professors against enforcement of the new University of Texas campus carry policy was denied while the lawsuit moves forward.

Higher Education/P–12 Education

As part of a trend all over the United States, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Adopts Emergency Teacher Licensing Rules to Address Teacher Shortage. Donna Pasternak notes that softening licensing requirements for K–12 teachers will impact not only school districts but also schools of education and departments of English.

Derek Kulnis describes New York City’s efforts to diversify its teaching force through a program called NYC Men Teach, which recruits men of color through mentoring programs or alternative pathways.

Michael Gos outlines the budget cuts, requested by Texas leaders, to all state agencies, including K–12 and higher education, noting the particular impact on community colleges.

P–12 Education

In Keystone Test No Longer an Exit Exam, Aileen Hower notes that Pennsylvania is reviewing alternative assessments. New Jersey, on the other hand, will “triple the weight of PARCC scores in teacher evaluations,” according to Kristen Turner.

Again in Pennsylvania, Aileen Hower shares Katie Meyer’s article about the National Labor Relations Board ruling that a virtual charter school should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. Aileen also published Judge: Lower Merion Schools Misled Taxpayers, Must Revoke Tax Hike, revealing that the Merion school district had a budget surplus.

Darlene Dyer writes about Mastery Education a Reality in Idaho; in mastery education, students “advance from grade to grade based on mastering concepts instead of seat time or a passing grade.”

Karen Henderson reports that MATELA (the Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts) will have a “significant presence” at the Montana Educators’ Conference in October through a number of presentations.

In response to a Montana State Board of Education ruling on writing programs, MATELA issued its own policy statement, which Anna Baldwin describes in Policy Assistance Offered for Significant Writing Programs.

Tiffany Rehbein reports from Wyoming that ACT Scores Increase[d] and Town Hall Meetings Give Wyoming Residents Voice on ESSA Implementation.

Robin Holland has been following teachers in Cleveland, posting these two reports: Cleveland Teachers Set to Strike in Ohio and Teacher Strike Averted in Cleveland, Ohio.

Clancy Ratliff describes the release by the Louisiana State Board of Education of a Digital Literacy Guide. Jalissa Bates shares that Louisiana Children with Disabilities Receive Boost with Federal Grant of $7 million.

Pamela Doiley questions whether Massachusetts will pass financial literacy legislation.

Derek Kulnis reports that New York City will revise the way it tests water for lead in all of its schools.

What Happened in Your State this June?

This is the first post in a monthly series to inform members about what is going on in your state.

capitol buildingThis past month, seven policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Pennsylvania, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, and Washington.

Budget and funding continue to be the biggest concerns for educators and schools. Aileen Hower discussed the difficulty that impoverished school districts in Pennsylvania face in borrowing money due to the state’s budget impasse. Kristi Nourie described the possibility of a shutdown for Kansas due to the legislature adjourning without addressing a court order to provide equitable funding for public schools. Although the Michigan legislature passed legislation to address Detroit’s financial crisis, there are controversial elements included in the law, as Daniel Yowell outlined:  hiring uncertified teachers,  determining merit pay based on standardized tests, and punitive measures for those teachers who participate in sick-outs. Kentucky delayed its initiative to offer free two-year college tuition according to Laura Matravers, Rachel Gramer, and Mary P. Sheridan, who questioned how Kentucky would sustain such funding.

In Michigan, lawmakers discussed third-grade retention policy: Daniel Yowell distinguished between the House bill that mandated retention if a student is one grade level behind in reading and the Senate bill that would allow a case-by-case exemption.  NCTE registered its strong opposition to “legislation mandating that children, in any grade level, who do not meet criteria in reading be retained,” in its Resolution on Mandatory Grade Retention and High-Stakes Testing.

Clancy Ratliff reported on Louisiana’s unanimous passage of a law requiring public schools to teach cursive writing. Derek Kulnis noted New York’s release of Common Core test items in light of the high percentage of New York students who opted out of mandated testing in 2015. Amanda Espinosa-Aguilar described Washington’s use of Smarter Balanced Assessment scores as placement tests in their public colleges and universities, addressing faculty concerns with student maturity.