Georgia Educational Opportunity Act

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Georgia Representative Phil Olaleye introduced HB 668 which aims to update the state’s 30-year-old Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula. The bill introduces an “opportunity weight” to allocate additional resources for students in poverty. Georgia is only one of six states that does not allocate specific state funds to help educate students living in poverty. This ensures schools can meet diverse educational needs, from rural transportation to mental health support and urban meal programs. The bill strives to eliminate disparities and enhance education statewide.

 

Impact

The Georgia Educational Opportunity Act would provide a much needed update to the state’s funding formula and provide additional funding to serve economically disadvantaged students. This would ensure that all students entering a public school in Georgia would receive the resources needed for success, regardless of their zip code and economic situation. For example, schools in rural Georgia might use the funds to transport students to dual enrollment programs or provide Wi-Fi hotspots. Suburban schools might use the funds to enhance mental health counseling and increase after-school tutoring. While urban districts might use the funds to pay for school meal programs and provide critical wraparound services.

Free School Meals for Eligible Kids

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Little Rock State Senator Clarke Tucker’s bill to offer free school meals for low-income students was signed into law. The USDA provides income eligibility guidelines for public school students throughout the United States to qualify for either free or reduced-price school meals. Tucker’s Act 656 eliminates the cost of all school meals for students who come from families that qualify for reduced-priced meals. This will have a huge impact on families who rely on school meals for their kids to eat and who need their dollars to stretch a little further.

The law creates a tiered system of funding. The Arkansas Department of Education will utilize any available federal funds to pay for these meals, and then the state will cover any remaining costs (including dedicated funding from medical marijuana tax revenue).

Impact:

Students who qualify for reduced-priced meals come from families with limited means and are still required to make some payment to receive their school meals. The price of those families’ school meals, even when reduced, can add up and even create debt. As part of the legislation, the state auditing entity will audit the Arkansas Department of Education Child Nutrition Unit and provide a report to the Senate and House Committees on Education every year to monitor the program, ensure that every eligible child in Arkansas is receiving these meals, and help the legislature budget appropriately.

Richmond Pathways Program

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney launched the Richmond Pathways Program pilot program that will cover the tuition of any Richmond Public School graduate to attend the local community college. With an initial investment of $1.7 million from the City of Richmond, The award will also be paired with a monthly cash allowance, mentorship, and additional resources to open more pathways for students to access postsecondary institutions and achieve success. Students would be able to pursue instruction in career-specific or skilled-trades credentials in addition to earning credits to transfer to a four-year college.

 

Impact

Currently a pilot program, the city is working to achieve a fundraising goal of $4 million through donations and contributions before launching.

Pathways in Technology: Early College High School Program

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff secured funds in the 2024/2025 biennial state budget to create a pilot program within a high school in two districts to expand access to college courses and technology internships by encouraging schools to partner with their local community college and a state-located business. This program is specifically targeted to the most needy districts in the state. These students will take a course load that allows them to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Furthermore, the internships they participate in allow them to gain invaluable experience and prepare them for the workforce, should they choose to enter it immediately or after completing a baccalaureate degree. In order to enable the most needy districts to apply to participate, the two costs for administering the program are paid for by the state.

 

Impact:

Senator Duff sees the program as a way to bring together local community college leadership and large local businesses in the technology field in support of students.

 

Creating a Diverse STEM Workforce by Leveraging Federal CHIPS Funding

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

To directly address the gender, social, and racial gaps in STEM education and careers, Oregon Representative Janelle Bynum advocated for two new grant programs focused on leveraging federal CHIPS funding to build a diverse workforce for the future. The first grant ($1.2 million) went to Portland non-profit Self Enhancement Inc. to build a pipeline of diverse students who will be ready to gain employment in Oregon’s expanding semiconductor industry. The second grant ($2 million) went to Building Blocks 2 Success, which will create a semiconductor workforce pipeline by offering summer programming and college preparation for students intending to major in STEM fields at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

These grants, in addition to over $200 million from the Oregon CHIPS act, go above and beyond what other states are doing and will work to ensure that the lucrative semiconductor careers of the future are more equitably distributed and incorporate individuals who are often left out of economic development. Especially considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action, investing in students who will attend HBCUs is more important than ever to address the STEM education and career gap.

Impact

In the short term, Oregon will evaluate the success of these investments by seeing how much federal CHIPS funding comes to our state. This effort will help create a state economy hospitable for future generations to succeed and will help new cohorts of STEM professionals attain the economic and social securities that will bring diverse families and communities to new levels of prosperity and opportunity.

 

Comprehensive Reporting of Education Expenditures by School Districts

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Connecticut Senate Democratic Majority Leader Bob Duff championed a bill that requires the State Department of Education to compile and publish all education related expenditures by school districts. The data will be formatted and publicly published to allow the comparison of the data across all districts. This information will allow parents and interested parties to see where their district is concentrating their resources and help parents and taxpayers in lower performing districts advocate for change.

Impact:   

The bill was signed into law in June 2023 and Senator Duff sees the ultimate goal of the effort to help poor performing districts raise their scores and ensure all students have access to programs that work for their educational needs.

Peake Early Childhood Center / Virginia Peninsula Community College Center of Excellence

 2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones led the Council adoption of the city’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan with the objective of ensuring that children enter school ready to learn and be successful. A strategy to support this objective is to increase the availability of and strengthen early education in pre-kindergarten programs, particularly for low-income children. To fulfill this strategy, the city is partnering with the Peake Childhood Center to develop and operate a fully accredited and licensed early childhood center. The joint facility in partnership with PEAKE and Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC), will provide a sliding scale tuition for up to 200 youth, from infant to 4 years old. Additionally, VPCC will train the next generation of childcare professionals through its onsite training program.

 Newport News also allocated over 20% of its ARPA funding to establish a new Early Childhood Education Center. This center will ensure that pre-kindergarten programs are universally available — particularly for low-income families — increasing options for our working families who need safe places for their children to learn and grow and empowering parents to become actively involved in their child’s learning and also remain in the workforce.

 

Impact:

The Peake Early Childhood Center will ensure that families, who struggle financially, have access to a center that addresses the early educational needs of their children and supports the needs of the family. Data reveals how important high-quality and affordable early learning and childcare are for the economy. The availability of early education programs attracts home buyers and increases property values by $13 dollars for every dollar invested. Also, a lack of childcare costs businesses $4.4 billion annually because parents/guardians must be absent from work to take care of their children.

Georgia Senator Elena Parent Makes Dual Enrollment Programs Affordable

Georgia Senator Elena Parent is working with her colleagues across the aisle to identify cost-efficient ways to grow the state’s dual enrollment programs, which enrolled nearly 49,000 Georgia high school students last school year. She hopes to enhance the impact of her most recent legislative achievement, SB 86, which grants students greater flexibility in utilizing grant funds and gathers crucial data on the transition of students into the workforce. “That way we can make decisions that are based on the use of the dollars we can use to further the program,” Parent added.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin Brings New Funding to Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program

Connecticut, Harford Mayor Luke Bronin announced new funding to expand the city’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning program. The program helps connect over 800 young people each year with paid summer jobs, and the funding boost will allow the city to expand the program in response to rising workforce needs. These young people will spend the summer exploring potential career options. This program will offer, “young people a really important opportunity to earn a paycheck, build skills and work experience, and get connected to mentors and a network of support,” added Bronin.

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Ohio City Council President Shannon Hardin Allocated $2 Million to Help College Students Secure Housing

Columbus, Ohio City Council President Shannon Hardin and fellow city councilmembers allocated $2 million to extend the Success Bridge Housing Stabilization program, which coordinates with community partners to help college students secure housing. The program started as a pilot in 2020 and provided emergency financial assistance and longer-term housing solutions to nearly 100 students. Success Bridge closed earlier this year, but Hardin worked to authorize $1.6 million from the city to pair with $400,000 from the city’s federal Emergency Rental Assistance programs. “Students more often fall behind on rent rather than tuition,” Hardin said. “This is a proven way to keep people in school.”