After the end to an unforeseen school year across the Midwest, state and local education leaders now face a new set of challenges and uncertainties as the start of another year looms. “We have been encouraging our district leaders and our school leaders to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in May during a Facebook Live discussion organized by Illinois Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
“We may see the start of school [in the fall] in a remote fashion. We may see a combination where some children are allowed to come to school on certain days, or where we take the upper grades and are able to spread them out in a school building with social distancing norms. Or we may be able to come back full force.”

CSG Midwest

In March, Senate President Roger Roth got the call to prepare for an unprecedented — but not unthinkable — event in the legislative history of Wisconsin. “Whatever you have to do,” he was told by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, “we need to be able to have a contingency plan in the midst of this coronavirus [outbreak].” 

Roth’s job as presiding officer: Get the state Senate ready for a first-ever virtual meeting of the entire chamber, so that it could pass essential bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping its 33 members and legislative staff safe. “I immediately called our legislative service agencies: our technology folks, our lawyers, our parliamentarians,” Roth says. “And from that point on, they haven’t stopped working.”

After much preparatory work, practice and dress rehearsals, actual virtual sessions of the Wisconsin Senate began being held in April.

“First, you want to protect the health and safety of our members, and one-third of [the senators] are 68 or older,” Roth says, noting that older people are at a higher risk of developing serious, potentially fatal, complications if exposed to COVID-19. Just as important, in the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, people are looking for stability and want to be reassured. I think it’s important to show that even in these challenging times, our government, just like our people, will endure.”

CSG Midwest

This year marks the 100th anniversary of federal-state vocational rehabilitation programs and services. The 1920 Smith-Fees Act, also known as the Civilian Rehabilitation Act, put forth the necessary funding for states to provide prosthetics, vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment and placement services to individuals with disabilities.

Pennsylvania Representative Dan Miller hosted his seventh annual Disability and Mental Health Summit in Pittsburgh at the beginning of March.  The event highlights a variety of critical issues faced by people with disabilities. Over 2,000 legislators, advocates, youth, and practitioners were in attendance.

The all-day event covered a variety of topics including sessions on Building a Youth Mental Health Advocacy Network, Navigating Medicaid for a Child with a Disability, and From Referral to Job Placement: Led by the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Pennsylvania Disability Summit Billboard

Amid the opioid crisis and COVID19 pandemic, healthcare has been at the forefront of most state policy priorities. However, rural healthcare has been facing a crisis over the past decade.

Over 60 million Americans live in rural areas. Rural communities make up over 50% of the state in numerous states such as Mississippi, Vermont, Maine and West Virginia according to US Census data. For example, Vermont’s rural population is 61.1% of the state.