State and Legislative Updates from SEF’s Government Affairs Team

The weeks of 2/5/24 – 2/16/24

Greetings all, The Southern Education Foundation is pleased to restart our Bottom Line newsletter, which provides a bi-weekly overview of state education policy news impacting students in the South. This month, southern legislatures are considering new investments for early childhood education and child care, showing many policymakers’ growing awareness of the importance of early learning. In K-12, lawmakers continue to push for new or expanded school voucher programs and measures to censor books and other learning materials. In higher education, there is a notable surge in legislation to restrict or eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in public universities and colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that more than 70 anti-DEI bills have recently been introduced. Please see more details below. We hope you find the resources below helpful and meaningful in your work to support students of color and students from low-income families across the South. We release this roundup of education policy and legislative news that impacts our 17 states every two weeks and encourage you to subscribe.

State Updates


  • Senate education budget chair considering cap on a school voucher bill – The Senate education budget chair is considering including a cap on SB 61, which would create a $100 million fund for qualifying families to claim tax credits for private school tuition or other expenses. (Alabama Reflector) Read More
  • “Parents’ Right to Know” bill approved by Senate committee – SB 48, the “Parents’ Right to Know” bill, which requires the curricula used in every classroom to be posted on each school district’s website at the beginning of each school year or within 30 calendar days after a new or revised curriculum is adopted, advanced out of the Senate and heads to the House. (Alabama Political Reporter) Read More
  • State working on $15,000 stipends for certain school administrators – School principals could receive stipends of up to $15,000 during the coming school year if they show they are boosting student outcomes. ( Lab) Read More


  • Attorney general rejects public education group’s ballot initiative again – The attorney general rejected a proposal to amend the state constitution’s education clause for a second time. The proposed ballot initiative aims to hold private schools participating in the state’s new voucher program to the same standards as public schools. (Arkansas Advocate) Read More
  • Business, nonprofit coalition searching for solutions to child-care crisis – A nonprofit focused on healthcare, education, and childcare is working with the State Chamber of Commerce and a host of other business groups to tackle the lack of child-care facilities, which is expected to worsen in the coming years. (Little Rock Public Radio) Read More


  • Lawmakers unlikely to make major changes to school funding formula this legislative session – An independent report last year showed that the state was underfunding high-needs students by $500 million to $1 billion. However, it is unlikely that lawmakers will dramatically overhaul state school funding this legislative session. (WHYY News) Read More


  • Educator training programs would have to stop instruction on systemic racism under this bill – SB 1372 , which would restrict curricula for teacher-education programs is making its way through the Senate. The bill states that educator certification programs and school leader preparation programs “may not distort significant historical events or include curriculum or instruction that teaches identity politics.” (Florida Phoenix) Read More
  • After a spate of education bans, churches are taking Black history into their own hands – Nearly 300 churches are offering Black history lessons for their communities to counter efforts to bar and restrict race-conscious lessons in schools across the state. (NBC News) Read More


  • House leaders approve governor’s midyear budget with a few new extras – Additions to the budget include funding for after-school programs, family support for K-12 students, and summer programs for pre-K students. (State Affairs) Read More
  • Senate committee OKs latest version of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ restrictions – SB 88, dubbed Georgia’s version of “Don’t Say Gay,” moved forward in a Senate committee after three years of work and multiple failures to advance, largely over Republican opposition to the inclusion of private schools and specific accountability requirements. (Georgia Recorder) Read More


  • Senate advances bill to limit DEI in higher education in the name of free speech – SB 6, designed to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in public colleges and universities, advanced out of the Senate and heads to the House. (Kentucky Public Radio) Read More
  • Republican senator will ask lawmakers to put $300 million into strengthening child care – SB 203 would allocate $150 million per year of the two-year budget cycle to help the child-care industry sustain operations and create more opportunities for working families. (Kentucky Lantern) Read More


  • State Supreme Court to hear arguments over spending public money on private schools – The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a dispute over a state law that would put $10 million of federal pandemic relief money into infrastructure grants for private schools. (WLBT News) Read More


  • GOP fight against DEI programs returns to state legislature – A House committee heard proposals that would bar state departments and medical schools that receive state funding from spending money on DEI programming. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Read More 
  • House gives initial approval to child-care tax credits – HB 1488 would offer three types of credits: for taxpayers who donate to support child-care centers, for employers who make investments in child-care needs for their employees, and for child-care providers. (Missouri Independent) Read More
  • Expansion of tax-credit scholarships faces criticism of homeschoolers – Organizations representing homeschool families raised concerns about government oversight on several pieces of legislation seeking to expand a K-12 tax credit scholarship program that helps pay for students to attend private and religious schools. (Missouri Independent) Read More

North Carolina

  • ‘Specific dismantling’: Public school educators, legislators react to shift to school vouchers –  For decades, the state legislature has debated the amount and uses of funding for public schools — and recently, in the face of legal requirements to increase public school funding, Republicans have moved to refocus funding for charter and private schools. (The Daily Tar Heel) Read More
  • State’s child-care model “unsustainable,” approaching fiscal cliff, leaders caution – The state’s top child-care regulator warned lawmakers that childcare could become a lot harder to find unless they take action to avert a coming fiscal cliff. (WRAL News) Read More
  • Opinion: Private school vouchers serve the interests of adults, not children – Private school vouchers aren’t about choice, equity, quality, or accountability. They’re about privatization, adults, and exclusion. (NC Newsline) Read More


  • Ryan Walters wants the private school tax credit cap removed. Lawmakers say that’s unlikely – State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters is calling for the removal of the financial cap on the state’s school choice tax credit program. Still, state legislators involved in negotiating the creation of the program last year said Wednesday that idea was a non-starter. (The Oklahoman) Read More
  • School-board election change gets strong support – Legislation to move school board elections to a November ballot has received strong support from the House Elections and Ethics Committee. (Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs) ​​Read More

South Carolina

  • State Board of Education advances regulations for book challenges – The State Board of Education passed a regulation that would make books in public South Carolina schools and classroom libraries controlled by the state instead of local school boards. (WPDE News) Read More
  • State officials say number of school mental health counselors has doubled – A recent survey of school districts found the number of school-based mental health counselors in the state totaled 1,200, up from 600 just 18 months prior. (The Center Square) Read More
  • Department of Social Services launches program to support state’s child-care industry – The program would work to reduce the high turnover rate among early childhood educators by providing bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 every six months to eligible providers. (WCSC) Read More


  • GOP lawmakers eye dissolving governing body of Tennessee’s only public historically Black university – SB 1596 would terminate Tennessee State University’s (TSU) Board of Trustees. A federal analysis shows that TSU was underfunded by $2.1B over the past three decades, more than any other public land-grant HBCU in the country. (WKMS) Read More
  • Gov. Bill Lee budgets $144 million for statewide school vouchers – Gov. Lee renewed his call for private school vouchers for any student across the state and set aside $144 million in his proposed budget to pay for the expanded program for up to 20,000 students in its first year. (Chalkbeat Tennessee) ​​Read More
  • Senator seeks to reduce child-care costs, increase availability with new bills – A recent package of six bills is focused on lowering child-care costs for working families and increasing compensation for the child-care workforce. (WZTV Nashville) Read More
  • State report details rising child-care costs and funding needs for school infrastructure – A new report finds that child-care costs in the state are continuing to increase and place a financial burden on many families. The report also addresses the need for additional support services in schools and school infrastructure. (The Greeneville Sun) Read More


  • Education coalition and lawmakers advocate for increased teacher pay – An education coalition and lawmakers hosted a press conference to highlight their legislative priorities, including increasing educator compensation. (VA Scope) Read More
  • Legislation to limit removal of explicit content from schools advances – Several Democratic-sponsored bills that would limit the censorship and removal of books with sexually explicit content are advancing through the House and Senate — and not just along party lines. (The Black Chronicle) Read More

West Virginia

  • Senate approves bill granting more power to teachers in disciplining students – SB 614, recently advanced by the senate, allows an educator to place students kindergarten through grade six in a county behavior program if they behave violently, threaten others, or make the learning environment unsafe. (WVNews)  Read More
  • West Virginia Senate Education Committee advances bill to require teachers to tell parents about student requests for different names, pronouns – The Senate Education Committee advanced SB 515, which would require schools to tell parents if their child asks to use a name or pronouns different from school records. (WVNews) Read More

National/Federal Updates

Early Childhood Education

  • More Republicans back spending on child care, saying it’s an economic issue – State lawmakers across the country are embracing plans to support child care – and even making it central to their policy agendas. (Associated Press) Read More
  • 2024 State of the State Analysis: Majority of Governors Highlight Child Care, Early Learning – Governors, both Republicans and Democrats alike, continue to elevate child care and early learning as central to the health and well-being of families, children, the workforce, and their state’s economy. (First Five Years Fund) Read More

K-12 Education News

  • In red states, the bill for school voucher bait-and-switch is coming due – As spending on private school vouchers continues to exceed projections, state treasuries are being emptied by tax-cutting schemes. (The Nation) Read More
  • ‘No accountability’: Vouchers wreak havoc on states – School vouchers are mainly being used by families whose children are already in private school – and state budgets are being drained as a result. (NEA Today) Read More
  • Expanding education access for justice-impacted students – The chair of the Education Commission for the States is beginning a new initiative to create access to quality educational and workforce opportunities for individuals in the justice system. (Education Commission of the States) Read More

Higher Education News

  • Republican lawmakers are backing dozens of bills targeting diversity efforts on campus and elsewhere – Already this year, Republican lawmakers have proposed about 50 bills in 20 states that would restrict initiatives on diversity, equity, and inclusion, or require their public disclosure, according to an Associated Press analysis. (Associated Press) Read More

Additional Resources

  • Spark and sustain: How all of the world’s school systems can improve learning at scale – Student achievement is stagnating globally and millions of children are not learning, but meaningful change is possible by taking lessons from systems that are beating the odds. (McKinsey & Company) Read More
  • UNCF report details HBCUs’ role in climate solution – Historically Black colleges and universities are poised to play a role in combatting climate change, according to a new report by the United Negro College Fund. (Inside Higher Ed) Read More
  • UNCF report examines Black teacher pipeline, offers best practices – A new report released by the United Negro College Fund reveals that Black teacher scarcity may be attributed to factors including desegregation, racism, and the incorporation of standardized tests that result in Black teachers losing their license. (Diverse: Issues in Higher Education) Read More
  • Advocates promote equitable prison education programs post-ell restoration – A new report from the Vera Institute includes suggestions on how states and institutions running prison education programs can use a racial equity lens to advance program quality — such as by prioritizing student input and using data to evaluate and compare the equity of student outcomes. (Inside Higher Ed) Read More
  • U.S. Department of Education releases 2023 Update to Equity Action Plan, outlines new commitments to advance equity – The U.S. Department of Education released its 2023 update to its Equity Action Plan as part of its efforts to implement President Biden’s Executive Order on advancing racial equity for underserved communities. (U.S. Department of Education) Read more

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns and if we can assist with any government affairs or advocacy issues moving forward.


Fred Jones, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Darian Burns, Legislative and Public Policy Analyst, Allison Boyle, Research and Policy Specialist,





Review the archive of past updates for 2023:
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