The State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF) firmly believes that real government reform, innovative policy changes, and the big ideas that will solve America's problems are going to be found in state capitols and not Washington, D.C. As has been the case for several years, there is grid-lock in Washington, and Federal government spending and regulation are out of control, while our country's problems continue to be unaddressed by Washington.

Contrast this with the states, who are getting things done -- some better than others. America is at its most prosperous and productive when there is limited government, less spending, less taxes, less dictation from Washington, and less encroachment into the states.

SGLF will promote innovative reforms advocated by our conservative elected leaders and defend them when the special interest proponents of the status quo attack these elected leaders. SGLF is dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about the benefits of smaller government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and efficiency in governing.

SGLF is a 501 (c)(4) social welfare organization and is a strategic partner to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) - home to the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Republican Secretaries of State Committee.

Voter Registration in Supreme Court Spotlight

Written by Jake Grovum for Stateline on March 15, 2013Federal Overreach
A key provision of the two-decade-old National Voter Registration Act hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court on Monday hears a challenge that, if successful, could make registering to vote more complicated. The justices will once again weigh states’ rights against voting rights as the court hears the challenge, brought by the state of Arizona, against a provision of the voter registration law that is credited with streamlining the country’s voter registration process.

The case centers on a dispute over Arizona’s voter-approved Proposition 200, which was enacted in 2004 and requires voters to prove their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote. The law contradicts the federal measure, and the clash has grown to incorporate the broader arguments over state control of elections featured prominently in recent court battles over voter ID requirements and a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

The Arizona case differs from the voter ID cases, however. It focuses on a requirement that voters show certain identification prior to registration, rather than voting. The Supreme Court has upheld voter ID requirements to be constitutional. It also doesn’t directly involve the Voting Rights Act. At issue is the question of how much proof a voter should be required to show before registering, and whether the state can go above and beyond the federal statute. The Arizona law requires voters to show documents such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. Federal law requires states to use a simple form that asks voters to verify their citizenship under penalty of perjury.
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Public lands legislation puts federal control in cross hairs

Written by Brian Maffly for The Salt Lake Tribune on March 15, 2013Federal Overreach
The anti-federal theme that characterized much of the 2013 session reached far into the natural resources arena. The Legislature passed several bills and resolutions affirming state and local "sovereignty" over public lands, forests, water rights, endangered species and law enforcement. Rep. Mike Noel’s HB155, aka "the sheriff’s bill," would bar employees of federal-land management agencies from acting in a law-enforcement capacity except in emergency situations. The Kanab Republican also sponsored HB382 designating a "grazing zone" over Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It overwhelmingly passed, while a Senate resolution calling for protecting Greater Canyonlands was referred to interim study.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, claimed the U.S. Forest Service is twisting ranchers’ arms to get them to sign over their water rights. His HB166 and a companion resolution affirm ranchers’ right of access to public lands to develop their water rights. Other popular measures took aim at the Endangered Species Act, which one lawmaker condemned as "a federal tool that hurts us." The Legislature reauthorized a $300,000 appropriation to keep wolves out of Utah. SCR3 asks the feds to hand Utah prairie dog management to Iron County and HCR7, insists no private land be designated as critical habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse.

The Legislature also passed HB164, which would allow county authorities to "mitigate" national forests they deem a threat to public safety. Thursday evening the House concurred with a Senate amendment on the bill.
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Senators preparing for oil tax bill vote

Democrats mount last-ditch 'resistance'

Written by MARK D. MILLER for Juneau Empire on March 15, 2013Energy & Environment
A proposal to reduce oil production taxes in Alaska — a move proponents argue is needed to make the state “competitive” with other major oil-producing jurisdictions, and which detractors deride as a “giveaway” to oil companies with no guarantee of increased oil production — is set to come before the Senate as early as Monday. The Senate has yet to debate Senate Bill 21, the oil tax reform proposal. The bill was not read on the Senate floor Friday.

The latest version of S.B. 21 from the Senate Finance Committee includes provisions raising the base production tax rate to 35 percent and then lowering it to 33 percent by 2017, instituting a $5 per barrel production allowance, creating a 20 percent gross revenue exclusion for new oil, and removing the progressivity mechanism, which results in oil companies paying a larger share to the state when oil prices are high, from the tax structure. The state take is slightly progressive, but generally flat, as oil prices increase under the bill.
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NJ proposes tougher rules for jobless benefits

Written by Associated Press for on March 15, 2013Economic Prosperity
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Labor Department officials in New Jersey are taking public comments Friday on a proposed rule change regarding unemployment benefits. The new rule clarifies the responsibility of the jobless to actively look for work and allows benefits to be suspended for any week in which a claimant doesn't seek a new job. Residents receiving unemployment benefits would be required to report to the Division of Unemployment Insurance at specified times, as they do currently, and register for work.

Residents could register for work online from home or a public library, or at a county-run career center. The proposed change is designed to curtail unemployment fraud. The first testimony was by a representative of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. The business group supports the change.
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Mo. Senate passes union paycheck deduction bill

Published in The San Francisco Chronicle on March 14, 2013Labor Reform
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate has approved legislation requiring public employee unions to seek annual consent to automatically deduct fees from members' paychecks. The bill also would require the unions to seek consent for spending members' fees on political contributions.

Public safety unions representing first responders would be exempt and not have to seek consent from members under the Senate bill. The Senate voted 24-10 along party lines Thursday to send the measure to the House. Republicans supported the bill, while Democrats voted against it. The House on Wednesday passed a similar measure that would only require consent to spend dues on political contributions.
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Kansas Senate debating union paycheck deductions

Written by The Associated Press for Kansas City Star on March 14, 2013Labor Reform
TOPEKA — A bill prohibiting public employee unions in Kansas from deducting money from members’ paychecks to help finance political activities is advancing in the Legislature. The Senate was scheduled to debate the measure Thursday. The GOP-dominated chamber is expected to pass it.

Supporters of the bill say they want to prevent public employee unions from funneling money deducted from members’ paychecks to candidates or causes opposed by those members. They also contend that state and local government agencies processing payrolls shouldn’t be entangled in such transactions. Opponents argue there’s no need for the legislation because union members must agree to any deductions. Public employee unions say the measure is meant to hurt their fundraising and is another politically motivated attempt by many Republicans to undermine groups that overwhelmingly support Democrats.
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Legislature has chance for landmark educational reform

Written by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves for The Hattiesburg American on March 14, 2013Education Reform
Gov. Phil Bryant laid out a bold education reform package for the Legislature, calling this the “Education Session.” Both the Senate and House quickly took up the mantle by passing his Education Works Agenda establishing literacy standards for kindergarten through third-grade students, raising the requirements to enter a teaching program and improving graduation rates.

Gov. Bryant, Speaker Philip Gunn and I have worked closely together to create the best foundation for changing the quality of education, and legislators are in the final stages of passing education reform. The Senate and House are close to an agreement allowing school choice for parents and students through public charter schools with one important difference: Deciding where the schools should be allowed to operate.

The Senate and House agree school boards in A- and B-rated school districts can veto a public charter school application and deny giving parents educational choice. Both chambers agree public charter schools need only approval from the state authorizing board to operate in D- and F-rated districts. The primary difference is whether school boards in C-rated districts can block public charter schools in their community, in spite of parents’ demand for school choice.
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School flexibility: Alabama Supreme Court clears the way: Bentley can sign tax-credit bill into law

Written by Rick Harmon and Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser on March 14, 2013Education Reform
Republicans celebrated Wednesday’s Alabama Supreme Court decision lifting Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price’s temporary restraining order — a move that will allow Gov. Robert Bentley to sign a bill that gives students in failing public schools tax credits to transfer to non-failing public schools or private ones. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh called the Supreme Court ruling “a loss for activist judges and status quo union bosses, but a major win for parents and children trapped in failing schools across the state.”

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said, “While the enemies of education reform will continue to file baseless actions and fight the changes that our public education system desperately needs, today’s unanimous decision is a great victory for students, parents and educators alike.” And Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey applauded the court for upholding the “separation of powers, a fundamental doctrine of our republic which is crucial to the successful operation of state government.”
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Idaho House panel backs state insurance exchange

Written by Associated Press for The Idaho State Journal on March 12, 2013Health Care
The House Health and Welfare Committee backed a state-based, nonprofit insurance exchange Thursday, conceding that it wasn't a perfect solution, but it was better than merely accepting a version run from Washington, D.C. The 10-1 vote sets the stage for long and spirited House debate; two weeks ago, the Senate debated for about six hours, before passing a similar measure.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter backs this plan for a state-designed online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance, arguing that it keeps Idaho in control and will be less expensive than a federal exchange. Under President Obama's 2010 health care overhaul, exchanges will be required starting Jan. 1.

Lawmakers on the panel agreed with the Republican governor, saying they believe defaulting to the federal version _ as governments in about 25 GOP-led states have _ will leave Idaho without a seat at the negotiating table. "Idaho should be a leader," said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa. "Idaho is not giving into ideology here... I think Idaho is taking a stand and protecting its citizens rather than just handing everything over to the federal government."
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Gov. Robert Bentley backs changes for state's Medicaid program

Written by Kim Chandler for on March 12, 2013Health Care
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Gov. Robert Bentley said he will support the recommendations of his Medicaid commission to overhaul the way the state delivers services in the healthcare program for the poor. “We now have a chance to turn Alabama Medicaid into a program that provides better care while making more efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” Bentley said.

Bentley said the proposal will end Alabama Medicaid Agency’s fee-for-service model in favor of a network of locally run managed care networks. State Health Officer Don Williamson called the plan “potentially the most important health transformation” the state has seen. “It’s built on the idea, instead of paying for visits and volume, we pay for outcome and quality. This is an ambitious undertaking,” Williamson said.
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Senate passes permitting bill

SB27 allows the state to take over dredge-and-fill permits from federal government

Written by Becky Bohrer for THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on March 12, 2013Energy & Environment

JUNEAU — The state could move toward taking responsibility for dredge-and-fill permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under a bill passed by the Alaska Senate on Monday. SB27, one of several bills related to permitting that have been proposed by Gov. Sean Parnell, passed 15-2. It now goes to the House.Parnell has billed SB27 as a way to limit “federal overreach” in Alaska.

The bill would allow the state to evaluate the costs and consequences of assuming primacy for the dredge-and-fill permitting program. It also would allow the departments of Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources to take “reasonable steps” to assume primacy. The benefits, according to a briefing paper from the departments, would include involvement of fewer agencies, state management of water and land-use priorities and funding stability. The paper says the Corps has seen a recent cut in staff and is facing additional cuts when it will need to prepare large environmental reviews and permit “many state projects” from large state capital budgets the last few years.

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Education bill clears Senate Education Committee

Written by Dave Boucher for The Charleston Daily Mail on March 12, 2013Education Reform
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and supporters of his education initiatives won the first round on Tuesday as the Senate Education Committee approved a moderately altered version of his massive bill. Union officials promised the war against the "teacher-bashing bill" was far from over.

Senators reviewed a revised bill Tuesday during the committee meeting, and a majority approved the legislation on a voice vote. The new measure is 189 pages -- 10 more than the original bill -- and includes several compromises, said Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne. Those changes came after discussions with unions and the governor's office, he said. "We met with the constituency groups to try to look at the issues they had," Plymale said. "Whether we agreed with all the issues or not, they had some very valid issues that I thought needed to be addressed and we probably addressed 17 or so of those."

Hallie Mason, Tomblin's policy director, said the bill still accomplishes the governor's goals. "It's a much stronger bill. As we move forward to work through the legislative process, we'll see where we go from here; there may be additional changes. But I've been pleased with the opportunity to work through the bill," she said.
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Panel introduces revised education tax credit bill

Written by Dave Boucher for The Charleston Daily Mail on March 12, 2013Education Reform

A measure giving tax credits to individuals or businesses who donate to private and religious schools has been introduced in a House committee. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted on a party-line, Republican-led vote Monday to introduce the legislation that offers tax breaks to people and companies that give scholarships to students attending private schools. The bill provides an estimated $10 million yearly in tax credits to donors.

Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. Bob Nonini said his proposal gives more financial support to private school students and could save the state an estimated $5.8 million annually by lowering enrollment in the state's public schools.

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R.I. Senate leaders submit legislation to improve business climate

Written by Philip Marcelo for The Providence Journal on March 12, 2013Economic Prosperity
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and other Senate leaders Tuesday discussed a package of recently introduced bills they say will help improve Rhode Island's business climate. The proposals -- a number of which have been proposed over the years -- cover a range of topics from economic development planning to workforce training, education, health, energy and tax policy.

They come in response to "Moving the Needle," a January report by the Senate and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a business backed research group, that focused on how the state could raise its low rankings in national business surveys.
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Senate panel rejects Medicaid expansion in Florida

Written by Tia Mitchell for The Miami Herald on March 11, 2013Health Care

TALLAHASSEE -- A Florida Senate committee voted Monday against Medicaid expansion, joining the House in rejecting Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal for a three-year trial covered entirely by federal funding. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Florida should pursue a program that is stronger than Medicaid, which he described as flawed and costly.

“Why in the world would we take the federal government’s position when they promise that they’ll pay for Medicaid expansion when we know that they will be unable to keep that promise in the long run?” Brandes said. The conversation now turns to what Florida can do for roughly 1 million uninsured people who will still draw down billions of federal dollars.

Cost will be the focus, because even if the federal government pays for everything in the first three years, the state’s share will eventually rise to 10 percent. “I oppose the Washington plan, and I want a Florida plan,” said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the committee, which talked about creating a program to use the federal money to purchase private insurance policies for those who qualify. The Senate select committee on the Affordable Care Act voted along party lines, 7-4. Democrats said they were willing to explore alternatives, but unsuccessfully urged colleagues to embrace expansion as a backup.

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Time to Make Union Representation Voluntary

Written by James Sherk for SGLF on March 11, 2013Labor Reform

Time to Make Union Representation Voluntary
James Sherk - The Heritage Foundation

Edward Savarese learned the hard way how inefficiently the government operates. The rookie 5th grade teacher in Clark County, Nevada excelled in the classroom. He won recognition as one of his district’s “New Teachers of the Year.” But a month later the School Board laid him off because he lacked seniority.

Unlike the private sector, many state and local governments base layoffs on seniority. Government raises typically have little to do with performance. Pension costs have driven many cities into bankruptcy. These policies hurt taxpayers, communities, and diligent workers. Poor union contracts drive much of this dysfunction.

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Walker signs mining bill into law

Legislation eases permit process, may create jobs

Published in The Post Crescent on March 11, 2013Energy & Environment
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker signed Republicans’ polarizing mining bill into law Monday, completing a months-long, all-out campaign to jump-start a giant iron mine in far northwestern Wisconsin.

The legislation will dramatically reshape Wisconsin’s mining regulations to ease the permitting process for the open-pit mine Gogebic Taconite wants to dig just south of Lake Superior. Environmentalists maintain the measure guts the state’s environmental protections, but Republicans say it will help create thousands of jobs.

“This will do tremendous good for the people of Iron County,” Walker said after he signed a copy of the bill at Joy Global Inc., a Milwaukee facility that makes mining equipment. The county has the state’s second-worst unemployment rate in the state. Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams didn’t immediately return a telephone message Monday.
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House panel OKs teacher contracts bill

Written by Associated Press for The Idaho State Journal on March 09, 2013Education Reform
A disputed measure pushed by the Idaho School Board Association that gives school districts more leverage in contract talks with teachers has passed a House panel. The bill advanced on a party-line, Republican-led vote by the House Education Committee Friday gives school boards power to end contract negotiations by June 10 if talks with their local teachers union stall.
Debate on the proposal became spirited, with school boards arguing they need deadlines to set their annual budgets. The Idaho Education Association teachers union says the measure inappropriately undermines teachers' collective bargaining abilities. The proposal would be limited to just a year, a concession aimed at giving stakeholders an opportunity to study its success. Eagle Republican Rep. Reed DeMordaunt said he's forming a legislative task force to carry out that evaluation.
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Bill would allow counties to take over school ownership

Written by T. Keung Hui for The News Observer on March 08, 2013Education Reform
The fight over who should build and own schools in Wake County went statewide Thursday with the introduction of a bill that would allow all 100 county governments to take control of school properties. The bill would allow individual county boards of commissioners to take away from school boards their traditional responsibility for owning, siting, acquiring, constructing, maintaining and renovating schools. In counties that follow the provisions of the bill, commissioners would consult with the county school board, but would not be required to agree to their requests.

“The school districts should be focused on education and not acquisition of real estate,” said state Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “In high-growth counties, they’re spending. a lot of time on construction. They need to focus on teaching the students.” While the bill is backed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, it’s opposed by the Wake County school board and the N.C. School Boards Association. The bill was introduced three days after Wake school board members urged members of the Wake legislative delegation not to support the legislation.
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Alabama Senate passes right-to-work legislation

Written by Sebastian Kitchen for The Montgomery Advertiser on March 07, 2013Labor Reform
Alabama is already considered a right to work state, but Republicans in the Legislature want to reinforce that by adding the language to the state Constitution. The Senate approved the legislation 21-10 along partisan lines with Republicans voting for it on Thursday. If also approved by the House of Representatives and voters, the Constitution would state that workers could not be forced to join labor unions or similar organizations as a condition of their employment and could not be forced to pay dues or fees to those organizations.

While most people realize Alabama is friendly to business, Sen. Gerald Dial said the amendment would send a message to businesses throughout the nation and throughout the world “that Alabama is serious about business.” The Alabama AFL-CIO opposes the proposal.
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Iowa Senate advances version of education reform with more money and more options for schools

Written by Jason Noble for The Des Moines Register on March 07, 2013Education Reform
The Iowa Senate advanced its version of Gov. Terry Branstad’s education overhaul package on Thursday, offering an expansive take on reform that runs counter to the Republican House’s minimalism. The Senate Democratic plan goes beyond the Branstad proposal by increasing the state funding for school districts to implement the reforms and adding additional options for districts to provide teacher leadership opportunities.

Unlike the House, it maintains the governor’s call for minimum starting teacher salaries of $35,000 and requires districts to adopt new “career pathways” for teachers to earn more money by mentoring their peers. When the House approved its version of the reform last month, it set minimum salaries at $32,000 and made the pathways optional. “The bottom line is that, unlike the House, we are staying with the governor’s original vision,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. “We want every school district to begin to have activities and to use the (career pathways) model along these lines.” The Senate version, Senate Study Bill 1228, won approval in Quirmbach’s committee on Thursday afternoon ahead of a key legislative deadline. It’s now ready for debate on the Senate floor.
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House signs off on second charter schools bill

Written by Associated Press for The Idaho State Journal on March 07, 2013Education Reform
A measure giving organizations including Idaho public universities and non-profits power to open charter schools has passed the House. Lengthy debate from both sides of the aisle preceded Wednesday's 48-19 vote that moves the proposal to the Senate.

The bill governs how outside groups would be supervised if they move to open alternative schools. It also creates contractual benchmarks for charter schools, to demonstrate that they are flourishing and accountable to the state. Proponents argued opening charter schools offers more school choice to Idaho families.

Pingree Republican Rep. Julie VanOrden said charter schools can often serve struggling students better than their public school cousins. Moscow Democrat Rep. Shirley Ringo said the measure could result in waves of new schools _ and more hands in the state's public education funding pot.
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Kansas casts eye on teachers unions

Written by BRAD COOPER for The Kansas City Star on March 06, 2013Labor Reform
TOPEKA — New Jersey’s governor has branded them “political thugs.” A former federal education official has likened them to terrorists. Less vilified in Kansas than some other parts of the country, those teachers unions still find their clout under attack in the Legislature.

The battle over teachers unions has marched its way across the country. Ohio. Michigan. Wisconsin. Idaho. And now it’s in Kansas, greeted by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature. Lawmakers are moving to undercut the tenuous power of teachers unions by barring them from using voluntary paycheck deductions for politics. And they’re going after teachers’ ability to bargain collectively on key issues — hoping to give cash-strapped school districts new flexibility and leverage in contract talks.
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UPDATE Bills on voter ID, change in school elections advance

Written by John Lyon for Arkansas News Bureau on March 06, 2013Election Law
LITTLE ROCK — A bill to require Arkansas voters to show photo identification when they go to the polls advanced in the House on Wednesday. The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 13-6 to endorse Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest. The vote was delayed a week following a request for a report on how much the measure would cost the state. The bill would require the secretary of state’s office to provide county clerks with equipment and training to issue free ID cards to voters who request them.

A Bureau of Legislative Research report submitted Wednesday said implementing the measure would cost $300,000 for hardware, supplies, installation and training. The annual cost after that was projected to be negligible and any cost would be absorbed by the secretary of state’s budget. The cost projection matched exactly the projection that King gave last week.
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State Senate passes education reform bills

Written by JONATHAN KAMINSKY for The Associated Press on March 06, 2013Education Reform
OLYMPIA — The state Senate on Wednesday approved a series of K-12 education reform bills designed to crack down on poor reading in young students, empower principals and spotlight schools that are not hitting targets. The measures passed by the chamber are in large part the fruit of a Republican takeover, together with two Democrats, of the state Senate this year. "We're challenging the status quo," said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup. "We're looking to in some cases do what I might call disruptive change."

Democrats were supportive of some of the measures and aspects of others but said they wanted to give reforms enacted in recent years a chance to work before making more changes. They also argued that school funding should be addressed before additional reforms are passed. "We do need to identify low-performing schools and we do need to help them improve," said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. "But we need to make sure the funding is there." Among the bills passed is one that would require third-graders with inadequate reading skills to repeat a grade, attend summer school or otherwise improve their reading before enrolling in fourth grade. The measure would also authorize K-3 teacher training to help improve students' reading.
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