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Education Tops Agenda for State Lawmakers in 2024

The year 2024 is poised to be a pivotal one for education in state legislative sessions across the United States. Discussions are expected to revolve around the integration of artificial intelligence in classrooms, the concept of school choice, and methodologies for teaching subjects like reading.

Focus on Republican States

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Carol Corbet Burris of the Network for Public Education points out that states with Republican super-majorities, particularly in the South and Midwest, are likely to see the most activity around education. These states have been actively reshaping their public school systems in recent years.

School Choice Momentum

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The concept of school choice has gained significant traction since the pandemic, with advocates not showing any signs of slowing down. Despite successes in various states, efforts will continue, especially in Georgia and Texas, where 2023’s goals were not fully met.

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Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)

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A popular strategy among school choice proponents has been the implementation of Education Savings Accounts. These accounts allow parents to use government funds for alternative education options like homeschooling or private schooling. For instance, Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee proposed over $7,000 in ESAs per student.

The Rise of Tax Credit Programs

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Carol Corbet Burris predicts a shift towards tax credit programs for school choice. These programs, simpler and less problematic than ESAs, offer significant tax credits for private schooling, as seen in states like Ohio.

Curriculum Changes and the Science of Reading

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There’s a growing emphasis on the ‘science of reading’ in English-language curricula, with many states mandating this phonics-based teaching style. This approach is becoming increasingly prevalent, with states like Georgia and Oklahoma looking to strengthen their reading programs.

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Indiana’s Reading Standards

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In Indiana, Republican lawmakers are considering stringent measures for third graders who struggle with reading. Following the adoption of the science of reading, the state aims to ensure students are proficient in reading before advancing to higher grades.

Bipartisan Support for Literacy

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The focus on early literacy policies is gaining bipartisan support, with states like New York and New Jersey, traditionally Democratic, considering comprehensive literacy policies. This marks a rare area of agreement across the political spectrum.

AI in Education

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The rapid advancement of AI, exemplified by tools like ChatGPT, has brought new challenges and opportunities to education. Concerns about cheating and the impact on learning are driving legislative action.

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Legislative Response to AI

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The House’s introduction of the Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act at the end of last year signifies a growing recognition of AI’s role in education. This act aims to integrate AI literacy into school curriculums and provide funding for AI initiatives.

Teacher Recruitment and Retention

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The teaching profession faces significant challenges, including a labor shortage. States like Missouri and New York are introducing bills focused on teacher recruitment and retention, addressing critical issues like teacher pay and certification requirements.

Addressing Teacher Shortages

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Efforts to tackle teacher shortages include reforming teaching requirements and increasing teacher pay. For example, Missouri’s proposed bill sets minimum salary standards for teachers, reflecting a nationwide effort to make the teaching profession more attractive.

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Evolving Landscape of Education

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As 2024 unfolds, these education issues are expected to dominate state legislative sessions, reflecting the evolving landscape of education in the United States. From school choice to AI in classrooms, these discussions will shape the future of education policy and practice.

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