West Virginia Commission to Study Transportation Needs
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has issued an executive order creating a Blue Ribbon Highway Commission to evaluate the state's transportation system and develop a long-term action plan to address the state's needs. The commission will focus on identifying options for funding the maintenance and expansion of the state highway system to meet safety, mobility, and economic development goals. The commission will consist of representatives from state agencies; the state legislature; business, industry and unions; local governments; academia; and the public. The commission will issue a report to the governor, including recommendations on proposed legislation, before the start of the next legislative session in January 2013.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Massachusetts Schools to Begin Offering Alternatives for Expelled Students
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law that will provide more alternatives to classes for students who have been expelled or suspended from school. Currently, school districts in the state are not required to provide any type of education to suspended or expelled students. The new law requires school districts to choose and implement options such as alternative schools, virtual learning, or tutoring by July 2014. Additionally, the law creates a 90-day maximum exclusion period for students and requires school districts consider other options before expulsion. It also requires districts to report the number of days each student is barred during the school year.
(Contact: Emily Slack)
Hawaii Enters Clean Energy Partnership with China
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Secretary General of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) to create a new partnership for the deployment of clean energy technologies. Under the program outlined in the MOU, the Hawaii State Energy Office will facilitate coordination between Chinese and Hawaiian clean energy businesses. CCPIT will refer Chinese investors and developers to the State Energy Office, who will help them identify companies in Hawaii in need of investment capital or development partners. The State Energy Office has created an online form for Hawaiian clean energy companies to register to participate in the program.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Gov. Heineman Rewards Workplace Wellness
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman announced 26 Nebraska employers who will be honored for successful efforts in promoting workplace wellness as the 2012 recipients of the Governor's Wellness Award, a program that began five years ago. The award recognizes employers for prevention and wellness initiatives in the workplace and has two levels: the Sower Award, which recognizes workplaces that have established quality wellness programs; and the Grower Award, which honors businesses and organizations that have demonstrated significant improvement in employee health status through their wellness programs.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
Delaware Law Strengthens Coordination on Child Abuse and Neglect Cases
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law to ensure cases of child abuse and neglect are properly investigated and adjudicated. To reduce gaps in coordination, the law aims to promote an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse and neglect investigations by requiring officials to track those cases in the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families' (DSCYF) case management system. The law also creates an Investigation Coordinator (IC) within DSCYF to track all cases reported from the 24-hour abuse and neglect report line and to monitor cases—from beginning to end—involving death or serious injury to a child or sexual abuse allegations. The IC is required to report status, trends, and outcomes of civil and criminal cases to the Child Protection and Accountability Commission (CPAC) as requested.
The legislation stemmed from the work done by the Governor's Steering Committee on the Protection of Children and recommendations from the Widener University School of Law.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)
Illinois Governor Enhances Courts Access to Veterans Records
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill into law that aims to help veterans with mental health issues who have entered the criminal justice system. The new law provides the courts with greater access to the treatment records of veterans to help improve the adjudication process. The law will help ensure that veterans who have been charged with nonviolent crimes and have substance abuse or mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, are identified so that judge's rulings can incorporate access to treatment.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Iowa Governor Uses Skype to Increase Civic Engagement
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently launched the "Skype Your School!" program in an effort to virtually visit as many classrooms as possible this coming school year. The program allows classrooms to sign up for an interview with the governor or lieutenant governor via Skype, an online service that allows people to connect over the internet using video, voice, and instant messaging. The initiative is intended to allow students across the state a chance to interact with their elected leaders and become engaged in the political process.
(Contact: Emily Slack)
Oklahoma Launches Public Awareness Campaign on West Nile
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is working with state and local public health officials to raise awareness of the dangers of West Nile Virus and warning Oklahomans to take precautions. The West Nile Virus season—which has already caused at least three deaths this year in Oklahoma alone—has just begun and the disease is most dangerous to people over the age of 50. Gov. Fallin is asking Oklahoma residents to take personal responsibility for their health, which includes applying insect repellent when outdoors and emptying standing water from items outside the home.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
Poor Oral Health Impacts School Performance
A study by the Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California reported that poor oral health can put kids at a serious disadvantage in school. The study sample consisted of more than 1,500 socioeconomically disadvantaged elementary and high school children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Children in the study who reported having tooth pain were four times more likely to have a grade point average below the 2.8 when compared to children without oral pain. In addition, poor oral health is linked to absenteeism and missed work by parents. According to the study, 11 percent of children who had limited access to dental care missed school due to poor oral health, whereas only 4 percent of children with easier access to dental care missed school for that reason.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
New Study Shows that Teacher Evaluations Could Lead to Improved Student Performance
A new study appearing in the Harvard University journal Education Next finds that certain types of teacher evaluation programs can improve teaching skills, even for mid-career teachers. It is sometimes thought that the effectiveness of individual teachers is almost unchangeable after the first few years of teaching. The study examined a group of mid-career middle and elementary school teachers in Cincinnati Public Schools and determined that student achievement increased after teachers underwent practice-based evaluations that used multiple, highly structured classroom observations conducted by experienced peer teachers and administrators. Additionally, the researchers found that the performance improvements were largest for teachers who performed most poorly performing teachers before evaluation.
(Contact: Emily Slack)
United States' Wind Energy Market Continues to Grow
A report prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy found that the market for wind power in the United States has grown substantially since 2009 but may peak in 2012 because of uncertainty about federal tax incentives. The 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report found that in 2011 the market for wind power grew faster in the United States than in any country other than China. Approximately 6.8 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity were added to the United States' electric grid in 2011, 1.6 GW more than the capacity added in 2010. The report's authors expect wind capacity installations to be significantly higher in 2012, potentially in excess of 2009 when a peak of 10 GW was installed. The authors expect that uncertainty around the extension of federal tax credits for wind after 2012 is driving large investments this year, while investment in future years may decline.
The report's authors also found that as the wind energy market has expanded, the cost of wind energy has decreased, wind technology has advanced and produces more output per turbine, and the percentage of wind turbine components that are manufactured in the United States has increased, up to 67 percent in 2011 from 35 percent in 2005-06. Wind power comprised 32 percent of all new electric generating capacity installed in 2011 and wind contributes more than 3 percent of the total electric supply in the United States. Wind power generates more than 10 percent of electricity in six states, including two states—Iowa and South Dakota—where it generates more than 20 percent of in-state electricity.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour )
Report Evaluates Green Jobs and Career Pathway Programs in Two States
The Employment and Training Administration released a research paper based on a qualitative evaluation of green job programs in Vermont and Oregon. Both programs were funded as part of the U.S. Department of Labor's Energy Training Partnerships and use career pathway models for workforce development to focus on green jobs. The paper discusses how the strategies for developing a career pathway varied between each site and suggests a number of common lessons. The authors found that interaction between employers and community colleges to help align training with labor market demands is mutually beneficial, but that external regulation and context were more relevant to employer decisions on how to structure jobs and establish career pathways. The paper includes an in-depth discussion of the different career pathway models, the continuing discussion over the nature of green jobs, and the benefits of investments in locally driven partnerships.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Demographics Driving Changes in SSDI Program
A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines key trends in the growth of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. Since 1980, the number of disabled workers has tripled, while the size of the workforce has increased by only 40 percent. According to the report, the majority of the increase has come from demographic changes. Those include baby boomers aging into their high-disability years, a larger share of women who qualify for disability benefits (because more of them work long enough to qualify), and an increase in Social Security's full retirement age, which means workers with disabilities spend one more year receiving disability benefits before moving into the retirement system. In 1990, two of every three disability beneficiaries were male. Today, approximately only one of every two beneficiaries is male. The report also describes the eligibility criteria for SSDI and the demographic characteristics of recipients, including income dynamics and ability to work.
The authors concluded with a recommendation for a balanced approach to financial reforms while noting that effective reforms should anticipate the interaction effects between SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, and SSI populations.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)