Education

CSG Midwest
A decade ago, Ami Wazlawik, now a member of the Minnesota House, was graduating from college at an inopportune time — in the middle of the nation’s Great Recession. “I was like everyone else,” she recalls, “looking for a job.”
Instead, she found community service, working with students for a school year as a part of Minnesota’s Reading Corps, an experience that had a lasting impact not only on the students she tutored, but on her own life. Wazlawik says Reading Corps helped cement her commitment to being an active citizen, and is one reason she ran for public office.
And the program itself is often cited as a national model for how states can leverage the power of public service to address longstanding challenges or long-term goals.
CSG Midwest
School closings due to harsh winter weather are nothing new for the Midwest. But this past school year, heavier-than-usual snowfall and a polar vortex led to more shutdowns than usual in some parts of the region, and opened up discussions this year about state laws to help districts adjust.
Among the options considered by legislatures: one, provide “amnesty” to districts during especially bad-weather school years, meaning they’re eligible for full state aid even if they don’t meet state mandates on the number of instructional days; and two, make greater use of virtual learning.

With the number of jobs requiring an occupational license at an all-time high, The Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the National Governors Association (NGA) have come together to assist states in improving their understanding of occupational licensure issues and enhancing licensure portability.

Currently, the number of jobs requiring an occupational license is nearly one in four. While state licensing is important for...

CSG Midwest
Starting in 2021, North Dakota and Wisconsin will be the only two Midwestern states with chief state school officers elected by voters. Indiana legislators accelerated their state’s switch in governance structure with this year’s HB 1005, which replaces the position of school superintendent in two years with a governor-appointed secretary of education. (The change had been scheduled to take effect in 2025.)
CSG Midwest
Every state in this region funds a loan forgiveness program to assist certain individuals with their college debts. These programs most commonly target help for graduates entering a specific profession such as education or health care.
CSG Midwest
A nine-year-old constitutional dispute in Kansas over how, and how much, the state spends on its schools may finally be coming to an end. In early April, Gov. Laura Kelly signed SB 16, which provides Kansas public schools with an additional $90 million a year.
CSG Midwest
This year, Nebraska Sen. Julie Slama took a lead role in updating her state’s 70-year-old law on civics education. She had some experience from the not-so-distant past to guide that work — the time she spent as a student herself. The 23-year-old senator (one of the youngest people ever to serve in the Unicameral Legislature) still fondly recalls those civics classes and how her teachers approached lessons on government and citizenship.
“It wasn’t about memorization of dates and [historical] figures,” Slama says. “It was about the role of being a citizen, about discussing the issues of the day. From that, you learn that people can come to different conclusions about those issues, that disagreement is part of the process. And you learn to engage respectfully.”
But are most young people being exposed to a rich, meaningful civics curriculum?
Slama worries that many are not, based on her more recent experiences working with students as a track coach and as a counselor for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State. Too many young people, she says, don’t know basic facts, such as the three branches of government, and aren’t equipped with the skills to be informed, active citizens.
She’s hoping this year’s passage of LB 399 will strengthen the curriculum offered in Nebraska schools. Her work on the bill reflects a national trend; across the country, state legislators have been exploring ways to put a greater emphasis on civics in schools, and to perhaps teach it in a different way.
CSG Midwest
In April, Indiana submitted to the federal government its list of subject areas in education that have a statewide shortage of teachers. The list was long (close to 15 subject areas) and varied, from a dearth of music and arts teachers, to the need for more people to teach special education, math and science, and English.
“Sadly, ‘Indiana’ and ‘teacher shortage’ have become synonymous terms,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said in releasing the state’s most recent analysis of shortages.
Legislators are hoping a series of recently signed bills will help fix the problem, by addressing two oft-cited causes: high turnover and low pay.
CSG Midwest
The U.S. state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (2.3 percent as of March) will try to attract more skilled workers with $6 million worth of new scholarships and loan repayments. North Dakota’s HB 1171 seeks to address what many policymakers have said is the state’s No. 1 economic issue — workforce shortages.

Boston, Chicago, D.C., Las Vegas, Toronto, San Francisco and New York City are improving their paratransit options through an Uber initiative. Since Uber’s launch, the company has invested in ensuring that its features and technologies are accessible to all users. In November 2018, Uber, a CSG Associate member, announced plans to widely expand paratransit for individuals using wheelchairs and other motorized mobilization devices.
Wheelchair accessible rides are available through Uber WAV. These rides are priced at the same as an Uber X. Six of the eight cities listed above have a wait time of fifteen minutes or less, and Uber is working to achieve the same success in the other two cities over the next few months. Half of Uber’s business in the United States and Canada is represented by the eight cities that have launched this initiative. Uber plans to learn from these cities and expand this model across the country.

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