K-12 Education

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
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
Four years ago, Michigan legislators began funding a pilot farm-to-school project with at least two goals: One, get more fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes on the plates of K-12 students; two, open up new markets for local farmers. On both counts, state officials and national leaders in the farm-to-school movement say, the Michigan experiment is showing signs of success.
“It is a gold standard program,” Helen Dombalis, senior director of programs and policy for the National Farm to School Network, says of Michigan’s 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms. “Other states are looking at it as a model.”
Administered by the Michigan Department of Education, the program provides matching funds to school districts — equal to 10 cents per school meal — to purchase food products from nearby farms. Over three school years, the number of students served through the pilot project has risen from 48,000 to 135,000, and the legislative appropriation for 10 Cents a Meal has increased from $250,000 to $575,000.
CSG Midwest
The nation’s high school graduation rates continue to rise, new federal data show, though progress has slowed on this achievement indicator — one of the fundamental ways that states will assess the performance of their schools, districts and overall K-12 systems under the U.S. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
In the Midwest, rates for the 2016-’17 school year ranged from a high of 91.0 percent in Iowa (tops in the nation) to a low of 80.2 percent in Michigan. Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin joined Iowa in exceeding the U.S. average of 84.6 percent, which was up half of a percentage point from the previous school year.
CSG Midwest
Reflective of a national trend that has states re-examining how they evaluate the performance of teachers, Ohio is moving ahead with a revamped system that relies less on student test scores and places a greater emphasis on professional development.
SB 216 was signed into law this summer.
CSG Midwest
According to the Council for Economic Education’s “Survey of States,” which analyzes and compares laws across the nation, every state in the Midwest shares at least one policy — the inclusion of personal finance in its K-12 standards. But from there, the policies of states diverge, and they’ve also been changing in recent years due to the enactment of new laws.

HR 2353, or the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, was reauthorized by President Donald Trump through fiscal year 2023, under the new title Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The act was first established in 1984, then reauthorized in 1998, 2006 and now 2018 to increase the quality of career and technical education (CTE). This act adds $100 million over six years—an 11 percent increase over the fiscal year 2018 funding levels—aimed to expand the reach of CTE programs.

CSG Midwest
For his first job out of college, psychologist Mark Weist went to work at a mental health center, splitting his time between providing services at the center and a local school. The differences in the two settings were dramatic.
“At the mental health center, people weren’t showing up,” Weist, a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina, said during a presentation at this year’s Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting. “We’d be scheduled to see six or seven families in a day, for example, and only somewhere between one and three showed up.
“But in schools, there was this tremendous pent-up need for services.”
That experience nearly 30 years ago has led Weist to become a national leader in efforts to bring the mental health system into the schools, allowing community practitioners to work alongside school psychologists, nurses, social workers and counselors. He listed multiple benefits of school-based mental health: better identifying students in need, improving service access and use, and reducing barriers to learning. 

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