State Offers Scholarships for Foster Care Students: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signs a measure to offer postsecondary education scholarships to students in foster care. The measure will provide scholarships for them to attend two-year or four-year colleges, as well as complete job-training courses or skill certification programs. Additionally, students who receive scholarship funds will participate in a mentoring program developed by the department of human resources.
Program Reintegrates Nonviolent Juvenile Offenders: Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) launches an initiative to better reintegrate juvenile ex-offenders into society and to reduce crime rates. The Second Chance Society initiative keeps nonviolent offenders out of the criminal justice system through changes to sentencing and parole procedures. The initiative includes an employment program that combines employment training with basic education and expands a school-based diversion program, which connects at-risk youth with services intended to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. The initiative also will include a housing program that targets individuals likely to offend or reoffend, including frequent users of substance abuse treatments, mental health services, and those involved with corrections programs.
States Raises Legal Smoking Age to 21: Gov. David Ige (D) signs a measure to raise the smoking age. The law bans the sale of cigarettes and electronic smoking devices to anyone under 21, and institutes penalties for those caught smoking underage. According to the American Lung Association, 85% of smokers began smoking before 21. In addition, those who do start before 21 are more likely to develop strong addictions to nicotine than those who start at a later age. While other states have increased the smoking age to 19, Hawaii is the first state to raise it to 21.
State to Expand Hig-Speed Internet to Schools, Farms: Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R) signs the Connect Every Acre high-speed broadband bill into law. The bill, House File 655, encourages the expansion of high-speed broadband internet to all corners of the state helping to foster growth for modern agriculture, increase access for rural communities and school districts and connecting small business to the global marketplace. The new measure establishes a grant program for broadband infrastructure projects. Additionally, the office of the chief information officer will be tasked with coordinating the installation of fiber optic conduits. The measure also will establish a uniform application and approval process for the construction of new wireless facilities and cell towers.
New Early Care and Education Programs’ Ratings System Approved: Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signs a measure to improve the rating system for early care and education programs. The measure expands a previously existing rating system intended to measure how effective programs are in preparing young children for later schooling. The new system will include measures of instructional quality, leadership practices, staff credentials, professional development, and family and community engagement.
$1M for Early Childhood Education: Beshear announces that $1 million in grants have been awarded to 55 Community Early Childhood Councils (CECCs) covering 84 Kentucky counties to promote school readiness for children. Twenty-seven additional councils covering 33 counties have been invited to apply for the remaining funds of more than $280,000 bringing the total award to more than $1.25 million. The initiative will establish early childhood councils to develop community-level strategies that improve young children’s academic achievement. The individual county profiles the councils are tasked with developing will include data related to school readiness (for example, the percentage of children in child care programs). The councils also will include volunteers from the school district and health department as well as child care centers, libraries, and parents.
Law Bans Indoor Tanning for Minors: Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signs a measure banning the use of indoor tanning services for minors. Previously, children under 18 were able to use tanning devices with the written consent of a parent or guardian. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (a subsidiary of the World Health Organization) and the American Cancer Society recommend banning minors from using the devices because they increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
Governor Increases Insurance Availability for Foster Youth: Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signs a measure to increase the availability of liability insurance for foster care youth. The measure will provide foster youth with the ability to purchase automobile insurance once they turn 16 so they can more easily obtain a driver’s license. Additionally, the state now aligns with federal standards established through the “reasonable and prudent parent standard,” which requires caregivers to consider the health, safety, and best interests of the child when making decisions about participation in extracurricular, social, or cultural activities.
State Invests in High School Innovation: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announces an initiative to experiment with nontraditional instruction approaches, student assessments, and school organization. The initiative will involve programs that allow students to complete college-level courses and certifications while in high school as well as opportunities for internships and job-shadowing experiences. The goal is to connect student learning and workforce experiences.
Measure Will Improve Child Care Program Quality: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) enacts a measure to improve child care program quality. The measure will require all licensed child care programs that receive state funding to participate in a rating system. The system uses indicators (for example, the amount of staff training) to rate program quality. Scholarships will be given for professional development courses, instructional coaching, and technical assistance. Children in subsidized child care will be allowed to participate in the program for up to 12 months.
Walker Aims to Improve Low-Income Children’s Academic Achievement: Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs a measure to improve the academic achievement of low-income children in reading and math. The measure involves a contract with the department of education that requires schools to use strategies such as one-on-one tutoring, instructional coaching for teachers informed by performance data, and lower student-teacher ratios in the classroom. The measure also will require the school board to monitor and to report the strategies’ effect on student achievement.