Whiteboard Notes | Michigan Announces $100M in New K-12 Funding; Washington State Scholarship Fund for 2-Year Degrees; Apple Launches Low-Cost iPad

Legislation Introduced To Make College Debt-Free: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced The Debt-Free College Act, which aims to lower the cost of college by addressing the total cost of attendance as well as factors like room and board and book purchases. Similar to previous legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), the bill currently has 32 co-sponsors, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Thousands of TEACH Grants Accidentally Converted Into Loans: A new government study shows thousands of teachers have had TEACH grants converted to loans due to paperwork errors. Introduced by the U.S. Department of Education in 2008, TEACH grants provide up to $4,000 a year to individuals who are completing bachelors or masters degrees. Individuals would be able to keep the grant money if they teach high-need subjects at low-income schools for four years. Teachers affected are now joining lawsuits against both the Department of Education and FedLoan, which manages the TEACH grant program, in an effort to reverse the decisions.


Arizona Considers Changes to Testing Requirements for Graduation: Education bill HB 2037 passed the Senate Education Committee with an amendment on March 22. The Arizona Republic reports that the bill would replace a graduation requirement that students take the AzMERIT test and another science-based assessment with a requirement that students take either the SAT or the ACT during school hours. A recent pilot program funded by the state budget provided SAT and ACT test waivers to students in selected districts, but the $235,000 allocated for funding ran out before all the interested districts were funded.

New Bill in Colorado to Increase Communication About Dual Enrollment Options: Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed HB 1005 on March 22, new legislation that will require schools and districts to provide notice to all students about available dual enrollment options. The notice would be required to include information about the financial, academic and career benefits of concurrent enrollment course completion. The act takes effect 90 days from adjournment, which is expected to occur on May 9.

New Guidelines on Suspensions Offered in Georgia: The Georgia Senate passed HB 740 by a vote of 47-5 on March 21, which would require schools and local education agencies to conduct certain screenings, assessments and reviews prior to expelling or assigning a K-3 student a suspension of five or more days. The legislation is pending concurrence by the House. The House and Senate versions are substantively similar.

Computer Science Bill in Indiana: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed SB 172/Public Law 132 on March 19. The bill, which takes effect July 1, establishes both the Next Level Computer Science Grant Program and the Next Level Computer Science Fund. Grants will be distributed to eligible entities to implement teacher professional development programs for training in teaching computer science. The Board of Education will be required to administer the program and fund and develop guidelines to award grants from the fund to eligible entities. Public schools and charter schools will be required to offer a computer science course as a one semester elective course beginning in 2021.

Michigan Seeks to Close the Talent Gap with $100M in Funding: Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced the “Marshall Plan for Talent,” which includes $100 million in funding for public colleges and K-12 schools. The Governor’s new plan is designed to increase students’ awareness of careers in professional and vocational trades in effort to fill the projected 800,000 high-wage job openings in the state over the next few years. The funding will be used to create competency-based curricula for the Michigan public school system and will also support hiring additional career advisors and scholarships for low-income students.

Transfer and Articulation in Virginia: HB 3 was presented to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on March 26. Northam has until April 9 to act on the bill or it becomes law. In an effort to improve transfer and articulation from community colleges to four-year institutions, the bill would require the development of a standard “Passport Program” and a Uniform Certificate of General Studies program to be offered at each community college. By default, four-year institutions would need to accept courses in the passport program for credit, unless a waiver has been granted for a particular course of study. Four-year institutions would be required to map out career education pathways to allow students to see the classes necessary to complete a four-year program.

Washington Includes Two-Year Degrees in State Scholarship Fund: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill to extend the $200 million Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to students earning short-term certificates and degrees from technical and community colleges in the STEM and health care fields. Previously, the scholarship only provided aid to low to middle income students completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in the designated fields. The legislative change reflects growing national support for 2-year degrees, and will help the state achieve its goal of 70 percent of high school graduates earning a postsecondary degree by 2030.

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Governor’s Funding Plan in Arizona Ruled Unconstitutional: A Federal judge ruled that Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) proposal to increase school funding to $3.5 billion over the next decade (Proposition 123) is unconstitutional. Ducey’s plan involved withdrawing $2.2 billion annually from the State’s Endowment Trust Fund, but, according to the judge, existing federal law prohibits such a move. Arizona Education Association, the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials remain in support of the Governor’s proposition.

Watchdog Agency Recommends Legislation to Prevent NC Districts from Filing Funding Legislation: A government watchdog agency for North Carolina’s General Assembly recommended that legislators pass a law barring school districts from suing the county commission when the two parties cannot reach an agreement on funding requests. Instead, the law would allow the county commission to allocate funding based on a formula that takes into consideration the school district’s student population and inflation. This formula, though providing a solution for lawmakers and school districts, may result in less money being allocated to school districts.

Number Talk Can Increase Childhood Math Ability: A new study showed a positive correlation between parents using numbers higher than 10 and their children’s math ability. Implications of the study are that both parents and early-childhood educators should work to expose children to math instruction earlier and more frequently. Researchers note, however, that because almost ninety percent of those who participated in the study are white and over seventy percent hold bachelor’s degrees, the results may not be reflective of society as a whole.


Growing Gap Between Student Debt and Wages: Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show that education-related loans have grown faster than any other consumer debt, making up around 10.5% of the $13.1 trillion in household debt. Younger Americans are also facing student debt that is growing five times faster than their wages have over the past ten years.

Federal Judge Orders Re-Opening of ACIC Case: A federal judge ruled that the Department of Education under President Obama overlooked key evidence when it terminated recognition of theAccrediting Council for Independent Colleges in 2016. According to the judge, the Department violated the Administrative Procedures Act in failing to consider documents that the accrediting agency had submitted, and ordered the case be reconsidered in light of the submitted evidence. Before losing its recognition, the ACIC represented 245 institutions that were mostly for-profit educational institutions.

Texas Database Combines Income and Education Data: The University of Texas System released a database that combines its graduates’ educational records with their earnings. This new system is meant to circumvent a ban on accessing a federal database on national employment data that was implemented under the 2008 Higher Education Act. By publicizing their data, the University of Texas system hopes to better inform student and parents about investing in higher education and what outcomes may look like for specific degrees and career paths.

Data Released On Credentials in the Workforce: The National Center for Education Statistics released a new data point that details degree and non-degree credentials held by labor force participants. The study showed that 45% of labor force participants held a post-secondary degree beyond a high school degree, and that 58% held certifications and licenses. Amongst those individuals that did not earn a post-secondary degree but were non-degreed, 56% held a licence as opposed to a postsecondary certificate or certification.