California to Guarantee College Admission to Community College Grads
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a law to guarantee community college graduates admission to a California State University (CSU) campus. The new law, which will take effect for the 2011–12 academic year, includes the following provisions:
- Community college districts cannot impose any additional requirements for a student to be eligible for the associate degree for transfer;
- The California State University cannot make a transfer student repeat courses that are similar to those taken (and passed) at the community college; and
- The California State University campus must guarantee admission, with junior status, to any community college student who meets the requirements for the associate degree for transfer.
The law does not guarantee the student admission for specified majors or campuses, but will give priority admission to the student's local California State University campus and to the program or major that is similar to his or her community college major.
The new policy replaces a system where the expectations of community colleges and the CSU system were not aligned, often leaving community graduates unable to transfer, or requiring students to take additional coursework to transfer to a four-year institution. The Public Policy Institute of California projects that California will have one million fewer graduates than it needs in 2025, and that increasing transfer rates from community colleges to four-year postsecondary educational institutions would dramatically reduce the education skills gap. This law is expected to allow about 55,000 more students per year to transfer from community college to the California State system.
(Contact: Travis Reindl)
South Carolina Tracks Student Achievement Online
South Carolina has launched a new online system that allows educators and parents to track students' progress and grades in school. The new system, known as Powerschool, tracks individual students' performance and connects student data with the type of instructional methods used. Using Powerschool, state officials and researchers will be able to analyze what type of teaching methods helped students to succeed in school, as well as what works best for students of different backgrounds. In addition, a parent portal will give parents instant information to every test grade that the teacher enters for a child. The South Carolina Department of Education received a $14.9 million federal grant to implement the system.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Indiana Tracks Emergency Room Data Online
Indiana will begin sending information on daily emergency-room visits to federal health officials through a secure online link. Data on influenza, influenza-like illnesses and pneumonia were sent from select Indiana hospitals to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, and Indiana hopes to have all 120 of its hospitals reporting data within 12-18 months.
Several states have expressed an interest in using the system, which would increase the ability to quickly detect surges in communicable diseases. This rapid detection would help give federal, state and local officials more time to address outbreaks, such as last year's H1N1 flu pandemic.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Missouri to Expand Community-Based Services for Disabled Persons
A new partnership of federal, state and local governments will support improved community-based services for disabled Missourians and help avoid the need for more costly institutionalization or residential care placement. Specifically, the new program will enable eligible individuals and families to receive services such as personal assistance; employment and career preparation; accessibility adaptations; behavioral, speech or physical therapy; dental care; and emergency response services in their home communities.
The program, which is a joint effort of the Department of Mental Health, CMS and the 37 participating local county boards, will help provide an additional 470 individuals with up to $12,000 per year in services.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Texas Crime Reporting App Targets Youth
In Texas, new technology has been introduced by the Dallas Police Department to encourage citizens to report more crimes. Crime tips can be submitted anonymously to iWatch Dallas through the web, by phone or text message, or via a new iPhone application. The program is intended to target young adults, especially, in an effort to increase reporting of crimes such as gang activity, burglary, narcotics, and auto crimes. No additional funds are required to run the program, as reported tips are sent to the Department's existing intelligence unit.
(Contact: David Henry)
California to Parole Medically Incapacitated Prisoners
California Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill enabling the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to release comatose and physically incapacitated inmates. The law requires the Board of Parole Hearings to screen those who would be medically released to ensure that they are not a threat to public safety. Offenders would only qualify if they require 24-hour care and would remain under parole supervision, however they could return to prison if their condition improves. Offenders sentenced to death or life without parole will not qualify under the medical parole bill.
The law is expected to save the state $46 million in prisoner housing and medical costs immediately. When fully implemented, the program could save the state approximately $200 million.
(Contact: David Henry)
Illinois Extends Program to Assist the Unemployed
Illinois will use state funding to extend the Put Illinois to Work (PIW) program, designed to place unemployed and underemployed residents in subsidized employment positions, after the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund expired on September 30th. Since its launch in April 2010, the PIW program has placed over 26,000 individuals with over 5,000 nonprofit, government, and private employers throughout the state. PIW is a partnership between the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Heartland Human Care Services.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
Virginia Commission Makes Recommendations on Job Creation
The Virginia Economic Development and Job Creation Commission has presented recommendations on state industry, innovation and workforce efforts to Governor Bob McDonnell. The commission was formed by the governor to develop a series of innovative and achievable policy recommendations to help create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Virginia. Some of the key subgroup recommendations include:
- Establish an Emerging Technology Fund toencourage research-based technologies;
- Develop a Tourism Development Grant Program tofill gaps in financing for certain locality endorsed tourism development projects;
- Transform academic institutions into economic engines by creating centers of excellence and a research and development refundable tax credit; and
- Train workers for Virginia businesses by encouraging greater use of Career Pathways programs, including apprenticeship, on-the-job training and other Earn While You Learn models
Delaware Offers Rebates for Home Energy Upgrades
Delaware's Sustainable Energy Utility is moving forward with a comprehensive Home Energy Performance audit and retrofit program that offers rebates of $300-$8,250 for energy retrofits. The higher the projected home energy savings, the higher the rebate a customer can receive. Expected benefits include a possible 45 percent savings in energy bills and improvements in home comfort and health. Delaware's Sustainable Energy Utility is a non-profit entity created by the Delaware General Assembly in 2007 tasked with operating and overseeing programs that deliver comprehensive end-user energy efficiency and customer-sited renewable energy services to Delaware's households and businesses.
To qualify for a rebate, homeowners must first receive a home energy audit from an accredited contractor to pinpoint energy savings opportunities. Once approved, the homeowner can receive rebates on equipment installations or choose a whole home "performance path" that provides a rebate based on a home's total energy savings. Rebates can cover insulation, heating and cooling systems and windows and doors. Funding for the program comes from emissions auction revenues generated under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and federal stimulus funds. The rebate program is modeled after the state's Home Performance with Energy Star program, a voluntary program that seeks to achieve energy savings through coordinated improvements to a single house and help generate jobs.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Connecticut Identifies Permitting Improvements to Spur Economic Development
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a report recommending improvements to key state environmental permitting processes to spur economic development. The DEP expects that implementing the report's recommendations will help bring 200 new manufacturing and industrial facilities into the state by decreasing the length of time for a permit to be issued. The report reviewed 25 individual DEP-issued air and water permit programs and recommended process improvements, staffing and programmatic changes needed to expedite permit reviews. The report recommends:
- Deciding within 60 days whether there are deficiencies in a permit application (referred to as the sufficiency review); and
- Completing, within 180 days after the sufficiency determination, the technical analysis necessary to issue a formal notice to approve or deny a permit.
The report was prepared in compliance with Public Act 10-158 and was issued by Governor Jodi Rell's Permitting Task Force. Public Act 10-158 requires expedition of permitting processes and creates a permit ombudsman office to coordinate permit reviews. The DEP is collaborating with state stakeholders to develop a timeline for implementing the recommendations for permits issued under its authority. The report builds on the work of DEP's LEAN Initiative, a statewide process improvement program to reduce wasted time and effort.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Report: Innovation on a Budget
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released a new report, Innovation Policy on a Budget: Driving Innovation at a Time of Fiscal Constraint, highlighting the ways in which governments can continue to fund innovation with little or no new revenue. The report emphasized the importance of continued promotion and investment in innovation for achieving economic goals, including employment, productivity and wage growth. Among the report's recommendations are:
- Repurpose existing resources for programs that promote collaborative industry-university efforts;
- Use federal funding to leverage non-federal resources, such as private sector investment, user fees, and volunteer services;
- Link federal funding to performance and innovation using outcome measures instead of only making sure funds were spent as they were designated; and
- Restructure tax policy in a revenue-neutral way to spur innovation, such as taxing greenhouse gas emissions and using those funds to finance clean technology innovation.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Providing Financial Literacy in State Colleges and Universities
A new report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities promotes a stronger role for state colleges and universities in providing financial literacy education. Students face significant student debt and financial stresses while in college, creating an opportune time for outreach and education on financial literacy. The report lays out strategies for colleges, including:
- Developing a financial literacy program that harnesses the assets of the university, including enrollment, financial aid, career and alumni offices, as well as faculty and staff with expertise in economics, business and finance;
- Offering personal finance courses and integrate financial literacy in the broader college curriculum;
- Supporting students in accessing financial assistance; and
- Starting a dedicated office for financial counseling outside the financial aid office.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Report Highlights Health Reform and State Challenges
The Kaiser Family Foundation released its first report on state efforts to prepare for health reform, examining the experiences to date in five states: Connecticut, Michigan, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington. An aging workforce, hiring constraints and the recession are all highlighted as challenges facing state leaders as they work to set up health insurance exchanges and handle expanded Medicaid rolls.
As states work to form health reform implementation strategies, uncertainty surrounding potential new leadership in a historic number of states also plays a factor in these strategies.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
EIA Short Term Energy Outlook Shows Moderate Price Increases
The latest Short Term Energy Outlook by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipates increases in energy prices for 2011, compared to previous years. The current version of the oulook, which includes new changes based on economic and energy market data, shows moderate price increases in transportation fuels and overall electricity prices, with no price increases for natural gas. Specific prices projections from EIA include:
- Gasoline -- Regular-grade gasoline retail prices are expected to increase by $0.18, to $2.90 per gallon in 2011, compared to an average of $2.35 per gallon in 2009 and $2.72 per gallon in 2010.
- Diesel -- The retail cost of diesel fuel is expected to increase by $0.13 to $3.10 per gallon in 2011, up from an average of $2.46 per gallon in 2009 and $2.93 per gallon in 2010.
- Electricity prices -- The annual average residential electricity prices are predicted to increase to $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2011, compared to $0.115 per kWh in 2009 and $0.116 cents per kWh in 2010.
- Natural gas -- Natural gas prices are forecast to remain relatively flat in 2011, at $4.76 per MMBtu. Total natural gas consumption increased by four percent from 2009 levels, to 65 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2010.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
State Budgetsand the Housing Crisis
In examining the effect of the housing crisis on state and local governments, experts from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center have reported findings that stray from some of the conventional wisdom around the issue, which may carry new implications for state policymakers. The experts have concluded that in aggregate, widespread unemployment and shrinking incomes are more significant in decreasing overall tax revenue for state budgets than housing-related declines. According to the experts, even while housing prices fell, property taxes maintained value and supported city budgets while other sources of state revenue declined. In fact, of five primary revenue streams identified by the experts, property taxes were the only source of revenue to remain stable or increase between 2005 and 2009, while other revenues (from transfer taxes, income taxes, and direct and indirect sales tax) declined. Thus, as state revenues fell during the same time period, local government revenues continued to grow as property tax revenue held steady. State revenue sources, on the other hand, are typically reliant on income and sales taxes. Therefore, the experts note, there is great geographic variation in these results.
Another key finding from the discussion is that the national housing bubble, and subsequent crisis, could have been predicted by looking at state-level data rather than national data. The experts observed that economic cycles are more apparent at the state level; therefore, analyzing state data collectively can improve national forecasts. State-level housing data, for example, can serve as an early warning sign of housing trouble on a national scale.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
CRS Report Shows Recent Spike in Homegrown Terrorist Plotting
Terrorist plots influenced by radical Islam have spiked over the past year, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The report describes the 40 homegrown, violent jihadist plots and attacks that have occurred since September 11, 2001.
The report revealed a recent spike in homegrown plotting. Specifically, CRS found 19 homegrown terrorist plots in a little over a year between May 2009 and August 2010. By contrast, between 2001 and 2009, the report found only 21 total homegrown terrorist events or plans. The report calls for a national strategy or framework to counter radicalization activities, including identifying radicalism in communities, interrupting recruitment of potential violent extremists, countering radicalization efforts through information campaigns, and enhancing domestic intelligence gathering—such as state fusion centers—to analyze information into good intelligence for law enforcement.
(Contact: David Henry)
Survey Asks Public about State Budgets, Fiscal Crisis
A new report, based on surveys in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois and New York, finds a disconnect between what citizens want from state government and what will be required of states to resolve the current fiscal crisis. The survey examined public attitudes about the crisis, specifically how citizens view state government budget problems and actions to resolve them. The findings indicate that:
- Government efficiency is more important than government size. For example, majorities in four out of five of the states indicated "a lot" is wasted in state government, and about two out of three say their state government could spend less and still provide the same level of services. The authors note that given the steep spending reductions many states have already made since the recession started, efficiency measures alone will likely not be sufficient to address the budget issues being faced by states.
- The public will pay higher taxes for K-12 education and human services. Majorities in all five states say they would be willing to pay higher taxes to keep core services: 63-71 percent are willing to pay to keep K-12 public schools at current funding levels, while 52-57 percent are willing to pay higher taxes to preserve funding for health and human services. The authors note that given the size of deficits in all five states, fully protecting K-12 education and health and human services from cuts would compel deeper cuts everywhere else, and even then may not be sufficient to meet citizens' expectations.
- The public prefers increasing "sin" taxes on gambling, alcohol, and tobacco, as well as taxes on corporations and the wealthy, to any other tax increase. The authors note that these types of taxes are not able to generate the significant amount of revenue needed to address the current budget gaps.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
NGA Center Embarks on Public-Private Partnership to Improve STEM Education
The NGA Center kicked off a public-private partnership with states and Innovate+Educate, an alliance of corporations committed to education, to improve Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education through the sharing of best practices and leveraging industry investments. In one of its first actions to support states directly, Innovate+Educate allocated $50,000 in planning grant dollars to support the implementation of the Massachusetts Governor's STEM Council recommendations as a part of the state's comprehensive STEM policy reform.
(Contact: Angela Baber)
Thirty-Five States Have Adopted Common Academic Standards
As of October 7, 2010, 35 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Those states are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The NGA Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the Common Core State Standards in June. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain in K-12 education to graduate high school fully prepared for college and work.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)