State and Legislative Updates from SEF’s Government Affairs Team

March 4-15

President Biden released his FY 2025 budget request to Congress. It contained a $3.1 billion (or 4%) increase to the U.S. Department of Education budget for all federal education programs. The plan includes a $200 million increase for Title I and a new $8 billion program to accelerate students’ academic achievement. SEF’s more thorough analysis of President Biden’s FY 2025 budget request can be found here.

In other news, state efforts to defund the public education system continue to gain steam. Alabama approved a new school voucher program, while the Georgia House narrowly approved a new voucher this week despite notable public opposition. KentuckyMissouri, and Tennessee lawmakers are also taking steps to create or expand existing school vouchers. However, Mississippi House leaders struck down a far-reaching universal voucher bill and its amendment to create a committee to study vouchers by choosing not to bring it forward for consideration.

There was a lot of critical federal and state action that took place over the last couple of weeks. See below for more details on early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary policy news in the region.

*Also, view SEF’s latest policy brief, Getting Results: How Outcomes-Based Contracting Can Strengthen Student Support. We recommend innovative ways lawmakers and state education agencies can develop policies to improve how school districts finance and interact with student-support vendors.

State Updates


  • Lawmakers have approved a school voucher program – Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB 129, creating a school voucher program that would provide eligible families with as much as $7,000 to help pay for private school and $2,000 for homeschooling expenses. (WSFA 12 News) Read More
  • House passes bill restricting DEI initiatives, stirs debate on free speech – The House passed SB 129, which would ban the public funding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and leave teachers or employees who use “divisive concepts” subject to potential termination. (Alabama Reflector) Read More
  • ‘Don’t Say Gay’ expansion proposal heard in committee – A state representative introduced HB 130 to expand the state’s current “Don’t Say Gay” law through 12th grade. Current law prohibits teachers from leading discussions or teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity through the fifth grade. (Alabama Political Reporter) Read More


  •  Schools need more funding in some areas – Public schools are not receiving enough funding for guidance counselors, substitute teachers, and transportation, according to an adequacy study presented to members of the joint education committee. (The Center Square) Read More
  • ‘For AR Kids’ kicks off effort to gather signatures for education amendment  For AR Kids, an education advocacy group, is seeking to change the state’s education system with efforts to get their measure in front of voters. (KARK News)  Read More 
  • More school districts hiring unlicensed teachers to cope with staff shortages – One in 12 educators working in public schools are unlicensed or teaching outside of their certification area. This number has more than doubled in the last seven years as districts have used additional licensure exceptions to cope with teacher shortages. (Arkansas Advocate) Read More


  • Legislators briefed on landmark school funding report – Legislators got their first presentation of a landmark report from the American Institutes for Research suggesting the state needs to invest up to 50% more in public education. (Delaware Live) Read More


  • Teachers can discuss sexual orientation, gender ID under ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill settlement –  Students and teachers can discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms, provided that it’s not part of instruction, under a settlement between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys who had challenged a state law which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” (KKTV) Read More
  • Univ. of Florida eliminates DEI positions, appointments, spending – The University of Florida has closed its “Office of the Chief Diversity Officer,” eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors. (Inside Higher Ed) Read More


  • School voucher bill narrowly clears longtime obstacle, passes House – House Republicans passed SB 233, a revived school voucher bill allowing families to use taxpayer funding for private school tuition and homeschooling. The House voted 91-82, passing the measure with one vote to spare. (WABE News) Read More


  • Amendment allowing public money for nonpublic schools breezes out of Senate committee – The Senate Education Committee voted 11-2 in favor of HB 2, a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would ask voters to decide if they want to allow taxpayer dollars to go to private and charter schools. (Kentucky Lantern) Read More
  • With bill sponsor absent, House committee expands Senate curbs on diversity in higher education – The House Education Committee overhauled and expanded Senate-approved restrictions on diversity programs without hearing from the bill’s Senate sponsor. (Kentucky Lantern) Read More


  • Maryland lawmakers reject school-voucher amendment proposed for ‘failing schools’ – A debate over school voucher programs resurfaced as a Republican state delegate proposed merging HB 1027, the “Right to Learn Act,” with another education bill. However, the proposal faced pushback from Democrats, who contend it would siphon critical funding away from public education systems, ultimately failing in a 98-36 vote. ( Read More
  • Mississippi
    • School funding, ballot initiatives among issues surviving in Legislature – Legislators are considering proposals to rewrite the funding formula for public schools. SB 2332 would revise the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula that has been fully funded only twice since it became law in 1997. HB 1453 would set a new formula that would send more money to low-wealth districts. (WJTV 12 News) Read More
    • House leaders strike down school voucher bill without vote – HB 1449 was first introduced as a far-reaching, universal voucher bill allowing public funds to be spent on private schools, which had been amended to create a committee to study the issue. The bill died this week when it was not brought up for consideration, striking down both universal vouchers and the prospect of studying the use of vouchers. (Mississippi Today) Read More


    • Senate strikes deal to boost public-school funding in private-school tax-credit bill – Senate Democrats ended their filibuster of SB 727 that seeks to expand the state’s K-12 tax-credit scholarship program — agreeing to let the legislation come to a vote after Republicans added provisions to boost public school funding and teacher-retention efforts. (Missouri Independent) Read More
    • Critical race theory once again debated by senators – A Senate committee debated SB 918, which would ban school districts from discussing any topic or curriculum “similar to critical race theory or the 1619 Project.” (Missouri Independent) Read More

    North Carolina

    • Education policy expert discusses damaging new report about public schools – A recent report from the Network for Public Education paints a sobering picture of the policy choices state legislators have made about public schools in recent years.
    • Rural school district welcomes affordable housing complex for teachers – A lack of housing in the area was one factor impacting poor teacher retention. (WUNC) Read More



    • Bill preventing teacher bonuses clears state House – HB 4017 establishes a signing-bonus program for teachers who return to the classroom after being away from the profession for at least five years. Selected teachers would receive bonuses of $7,000 a year for five years. (KOCO-TV) Read More

    South Carolina

    • High court weighs private school voucher law as House leaders push expansion proposal – The South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments over a state law that allows families meeting certain federal poverty limits to access public money for private school tuition. (South Carolina Public Radio) Read More
    • Legislation targets some college diversity efforts – A new House proposal, HB 4289, would restrict efforts to promote diversity on college campuses. Supporters say they want to make sure equality and merit guide higher education, but others warn that the proposal could have detrimental effects. (WRDW-TV) Read More
    • Budget could mean major pay raises for teachers – House lawmakers officially passed the state budget, and it now heads to the Senate for review. An increase in educator salaries has advocates calling the spending plan historic and potentially game-changing for the state. (WCNC-TV) Read More


    • Proposals for universal school vouchers, expansion potential under debate – With the legislative session well underway, several proposals are now on the table when it comes to expanding universal school vouchers. (NEWS 5 WCYB) Read More
    • Move to Vacate Tennessee State Board Advances – The Senate Education Committee approved SB 1596 which would vacate the board of trustees of the historically Black Tennessee State University by June 30. Should the legislation pass both chambers, Gov. Bill Lee will appoint eight of the board’s 10 members, with the other two spots filled by a student and a faculty representative. (Inside Higher Ed) Read More
    • University of Memphis could become its own K-12 school district under new legislation  The University of Memphis, which operates three high-performing schools for K-12 students on its campus, could become its own school district under new legislation from two Republican lawmakers from Memphis. (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Read More


    • Lawmaker calls to abolish state education agency. Here’s what experts say could happen – A lawmaker’s recent call to dismantle the Texas Education Agency could reflect a growing discontent with the state office overseeing primary and secondary public schooling. (Austin American-Statesman) Read More


    • Lawmakers approve commission to examine universities’ displacement of Black communities – The legislature has approved HB 1066, creating a statewide commission to investigate the role of public colleges and universities in displacing Black communities. (ProPublica) Read More

    National/Federal Updates

    • Private schools, public money: school leaders are pushing parents to exploit voucher programs – Voucher expansions have unleashed a flood of additional taxpayer dollars to the benefit of families already enrolled in private schools. (ProPublica) Read More
    • Statement by Secretary Cardona on the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget – The president’s budget invests in key education priorities to accelerate academic achievement, increase career pathways, expand access to mental health, make postsecondary education more affordable, support educators, and more. (U.S. Department of Education) Read More
    • Biden’s State of the Union: High-quality tutoring is in, book bans are out – President Biden called for raising teacher pay, restoring the expanded child tax credit, and implementing universal preschool — sounding the same themes on education policy during his State of the Union speech. (K-12 Dive) Read More
    • Governors’ 2024 education priorities: early childhood, curriculum, school choice, mental health – The states’ chief executives concentrated their 2024 education policy priorities in seven areas: child care and early learning, the teaching profession, school choice, curriculum and instruction, student mental health, higher education, and workforce development. (The 74) Read More

    Additional Resources

    • Getting Results: How Outcomes-Based Contracting Can Strengthen Student Support OBC Policy Brief Webinar with Accelerate – Please join SEF, OBC, and Accelerate to discuss the findings of the recently published policy brief, Getting Results: How Outcomes-Based Contracting Can Strengthen Student Support that outlines several policy recommendations on how state education agencies and lawmakers can encourage OBC projects that benefit students and ensure that targeted taxpayer funds for education are well-spent. (Outcomes Based Contracting) Read More
    • Estimating the Cost of Supporting Quality Including Family Child Care Homes in Publicly-Funded Pre-K Programs – This policy brief dives into research on the implications of nine research-based policies for funding Family Child Care (FCC) educators in state-funded pre-K systems and how FCCs can be adequately funded to support quality learning environments. (National Institute for Early Education Research) Read More
    • Why teachers self-censor – Many educators are deciding on their own to restrict discussion of political and social issues in their classrooms — even if they are not subject to state censorship laws and local regulations. (NEA Today) Read More

Review the archive of past updates:
Updates for the week of  August 14, 2023 | August 7, 2023
July 31, 2023 | July 24, 2023 | July 17, 2023July 10, 2023
June 26, 2023 | June 19, 2023 | June 12, 2023 | June 5, 2023
May 29, 2023 | May 22, 2023 | May 15, 2023 | May 8, 2023 | May 1, 2023
April 24, 2023 | April 17, 2023 | April 10, 2023 | April 3, 2023
March 27, 2023 | March 20, 2023 | March 13, 2023 | March 6, 2023
Feb. 27, 2023 | Feb. 20, 2023 | Feb. 13, 2023 | Feb. 6, 2023
Jan. 30, 2023 | Jan. 23, 2023 | Jan. 16, 2023 | Jan. 9, 2023 | Jan. 2, 2023