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AAE State Policy Update May 24, 2011
posted by: Alix | May 24, 2011, 04:10 PM   

With the 2011 legislative session coming to an eventful end, states across the country have been on a quest for months to implement sweeping education and labor reform legislation. What began with a bang in Wisconsin has grown into a full-scale movement in states throughout the country. While each state is experiencing reform on different levels, it is impossible to ignore that this year will have a nationwide impact on the face of education and labor for generations to come.

Idaho: In an effort to combat education budget cuts, Idahoans around the state have voted to raise their own property taxes in the wake of a third straight year of cuts in school funding approved by the state legislature.

In elections in 65 of the state's 115 school districts this spring, 54 individual districts, or 83 percent overall, have been successful in passing additional property tax levies to contribute to operating funds for local schools, while 11 have failed.

Interestingly, voters this spring have so far approved more than $77.3 million a year in additional taxes for their local schools; another round of levy elections is scheduled for August 30.

Michigan: Michigan school districts are scrambling to reconcile needed materials and services with deep cuts to the education budget for next school year. Districts face cuts of $470 per student, but they could shrink that by $100 if they meet several conditions still being developed by legislators.

The conditions being proposed by Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders are intended to make districts shave costs, either by getting teachers to pay more toward their health care premiums or by consolidating services with other districts. Advocates argue the plan will force districts to evaluate their overall spending, producing more efficiency.

Tennessee: Senate Republicans on Friday evening voted to repeal the current collective bargaining privileges, replacing them with a plan proponents call "collaborative conferencing", a model they say is less combative.

The bill would continue to allow payroll deductions for union dues, but it would ban the dues from being used by the TEA's political action committee to make campaign contributions to candidates.

Wisconsin: With the state facing major budget shortfalls, Wisconsin state superintendent Tony Evers told lawmakers on Monday that it is "morally wrong" to expand Milwaukee's voucher school program at the same time funding for public education is slashed, yielding national headlines.

Only students from low-income families in Milwaukee can currently participate in Wisconsin's voucher program, but a bill before the Legislature would eliminate the 22,500-student enrollment cap at the same time it expands the program to all students in the county who wished to participate. The Milwaukee voucher program is the oldest in the country, serving students for over twenty years.

Texas: In light of the national headlines surrounding bullying, Texas lawmakers approved legislation requiring schools to adopt anti-bullying policies and improve methods of prevention.

The Texas Senate voted Monday for a bill that provides a framework for districts to develop and implement policies that prohibit bullying in any form. The bill also gives school boards discretion to transfer a student who bullies another student to a different classroom or campus in the district.

Schools would also have to set out specific methods for reporting and investigating bullying incidents. Governor Perry plans to sign the bill into law this week.

Don't see your state listed? Education Week issued a comprehensive list of legislation passed thus far. Also, visit the database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures for the latest information on labor legislation in your state.

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