Teacher Employment Laws Amended: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs a bill he helped shape that should make it easier to fire teachers accused of the most abhorrent forms of misconduct. By cutting the time and expense of litigating such cases, districts should be able to avoid out-of-court settlements like the one between the Los Angeles Unified School District and Mark Berndt, an elementary school teacher accused in 2012 of sexually abusing dozens of students. The law will also prohibit districts from agreeing to nondisclosure pacts and expunging accusations of abuse from personnel records if teachers agree to quit.
Pence Sets Goal to Align K-12 Education, Workforce Needs: Gov. Mike Pence (R) unveils a strategic plan to increase rates of postsecondary educational attainment and to align K-12 education and training with workforce needs. The plan, which involves colleges and certificate programs, includes the goal of 60 percent of residents achieving a postsecondary credential by 2025. Additional goals of the Career Council include embedding career education components across K-12 and post-secondary learning as earlier exposure can help students and adults make the connection between identifying career pathways and workforce success.
Governor Enacts School Safety Agenda: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signs a suite of bills to increase coordination between schools and emergency responders. The first allows schools to make emergency plans accessible to teachers, administrators, and emergency responders through smartphones and other electronic devices. The second requires private schools to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to conduct annual safety drills to improve emergency response and preparedness. That law is similar to one the governor signed last year that established standards for public safety coordination standards public schools. A third law expands the list of schools eligible to apply to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency program for school safety, which awards grants to schools for projects to improve security.
Non-Violent Youthful Offenders Given Second Chance: The governor signs a bill to clear the records of non-violent Illinois juvenile offenders. The Clean Slate Law clears juveniles’ arrest records when they turn 18, so long as the arrests did not result in criminal charges and there have been no subsequent arrests. The initiative is part of the Quinn’s plan to prevent minor offenses from damaging residents permanently. To remove some obstacles non-violent offenders face when obtaining employment, the governor previously signed legislation that provides a process for clearing convictions of non-violent offenders who have successfully completed their probation sentence.
Project to Improve Mental Health Care Services: Gov. Sam Brownback (R) launches a set of initiatives to enhance mental health care delivery and improve access, especially for underserved families with children and TANF participants. The initiatives create a behavioral health subcabinet, including the departments of Children and Families and Education, who identify common goals and possible funding opportunities. Additionally, behavioral health programs within state law enforcement agencies will be integrated and more treatment options will be made available in local communities. Projects will be created in communities across the state to help families with members who are experiencing behavioral health challenges using $7 million in TANF funding.
Martinez Works to Improve Teacher Preparation Programs: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) launches an initiative to improve the quality of teacher preparation programs. Beginning in 2014, schools that train educators will receive report cards indicating how well their graduates perform in a K-12 setting measured their students’ performance on tests during the newly trained teachers first three years of teaching. Additionally, the governor announced plans to raise the score students would need to receive to pass the state’s teacher certification examination.
Plan Eases High School Requirements for Students of Military Families: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) advances a measure that expands education opportunities for military families and veterans. The legislation allows schools to adjust course requirements to provide alternate ways for students to meet graduation requirements and thus allow students from relocating military families graduate on time. The agreement builds on recommendations from the governor’s veterans and military-families summit and also makes veterans eligible for in-state tuition at public universities.