Some school districts in South Dakota are using new state incentives that allow them to share teachers and, in the process, expand learning opportunities for their students. As part of a package of bills passed by the Legislature to address a shortage of teachers (HB 1182 and SBs 131 and 133), the state created the Employee Shared Service Grant program. The grants last for three years, with aid to the participating districts gradually dropping over that time period. With these grants, districts are hiring and sharing Spanish, arts, and English-language-learner teachers.
Before the night she suffered a severe allergic reaction that took her life nine days later, 13-year-old Annie LeGere had grown up with only minor allergy symptoms. There was no reason for her, her family or her health providers to believe she should have a prescription to an epinephrine autoinjector, the emergency treatment that can save lives in cases of anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction, most commonly to food).
But what if the first people often to respond to a medical emergency (including in Annie’s case) — local police officers — could carry these autoinjectors and be trained on how to administer them? The minutes saved by administering the drug on-site rather than in an emergency room could be the difference between life and death.
In Illinois, these officers now will have the opportunity, thanks to a bill passed this year (HB 4462) known as Annie’s Law. One of the leading proponents of HB 4462, Illinois Sen. Chris Nybo, worked closely on the measure with Annie’s family, which has created a foundation in her name with the goal of preventing future tragedies.
Right now in Iowa, it’s no sure bet that a child in need of mental health services is going to get them. Instead, access can depend on where his or her family happens to live. “There is no statewide system or network of care in place, and over the long term, we need to develop it because there are clear gaps,” explains Anne Gruenwald, president and CEO of Four Oaks, a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit agency that provides a range of services for children in need.
“When you have those gaps, needs go unmet, or we have to rely on our adult system of care — and that’s not always a good fit.” Iowa appears to be taking some important first steps, thanks to the recommendations of a work group formed by the Legislature in 2015 and actions taken by lawmakers during their 2016 session.
Come November, voters in the Midwest won’t just be deciding on who their state legislators, governors and other elected officials will be. They also will directly decide the future of a wide range of public policies — for example, whether to impose the death penalty in Nebraska and how to set legislative salaries in Minnesota.
As of early September, 20 proposals in seven Midwestern states had been certified for the November elections, according to Ballotpedia.org. They include a mix of legislatively referred constitutional amendments and citizen-initiated proposals, as well as attempts to overturn recent state legislative actions.
The U.S. Department of Labor unveiled a new rule in August that it hopes will remove uncertainties about the role of states in administering retirement plans for private-sector workers. Thus far, eight U.S. states, including Illinois (SB 2758, enacted in 2014), have passed laws to create payroll-deduction IRA programs. They are designed to help individuals who don’t have workplace savings arrangements such as a 401(k) plan. (One-third of U.S. workers do not have access to retirement savings plans through their employer.)
Ohio has become the latest Midwestern state to adopt a “Safe at Home” law, which allows the survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other violent crimes to shield their home addresses from public records. Under HB 359, which took effect in September, these crime victims can get a P.O. Box assigned to them by the secretary of state.
Starting this fall in Minnesota, college students will be required to complete training on preventing and reducing the prevalence of sexual assault. The mandate is part of a comprehensive law on sexual-assault prevention (SF 5) passed by legislators last year. In addition to requiring students to complete training within 10 business days of their first semester, the law expands the rights of victims, creates a new option to report cases online, and ensures that each school has a walk-in location staffed with trained advocates.
When the Every Student Succeeds Act got signed into law late last year with bipartisan congressional support, many state education leaders were quick to laud its passage and what it would mean for local control over schools.
Phil Pavlov, chair of the Michigan Senate Education Committee, said it opened the possibility for states to set their own policies, “without constant fear of federal intrusion and repercussions.” In Ohio, Sen. Peggy Lehner hailed the start of a new era in U.S. education policy.
“[It] is the most significant education reform bill in the past 14 years,” the chair of the state Senate Education Committee said, and would provide “new tools to advance the education of the children of Ohio.”
But as both Pavlov and Lehner noted, that additional flexibility will come with greater responsibility for states. As the new law begins to be fully implemented, the federal government will take a step back in some key areas of education policy and rely on states to step up.
“That means finding ways to strengthen schools that really need our help,” says Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “Five or seven years from now, it’s going to be really important, for the credibility of states, to show that our lower-performing schools have improved. Congress has trusted the states to get this right, and we have a window to do that.”
Michigan had the strongest economic growth in the Midwest between the last three months of last year and the first quarter of 2016, recently released federal data show. Total gross domestic product in the state rose by 2.6 percent over that period, with increases in durable-goods manufacturing leading the way. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, only six U.S. states outpaced Michigan in GDP growth.