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Special Education School Vouchers: A Look at Southern States
School choice continues to generate debate in state legislatures, even as several states move toward offering their students options beyond the K-12 public school setting. However, given the particular circumstances of children with special needs, less debate and controversy has surrounded the implementation of school choice programs for students in special education classrooms. Since state governments have a constitutional obligation to provide an education to all children, creating more educational options for children with special needs has the most potential for providing them the best education possible. Meanwhile, considering that the average annual cost of a special education student is $9,369 above the norm, the provision of legally required additional services for special needs students can prove costly for public schools with a small student population, where economies of scale are not feasible. Allowing and supplying additional school options for special education students, in these cases, may provide savings for schools unable to provide cost-effective specialized services for the limited number of students requiring them.
This SLC Regional Resource examines the strategies taken by Southern states to increase school options for special education students through the implementation of state-funded school voucher programs, focusing on their many forms and variations, and addresses school voucher programs that provide direct payments or reimbursements to private alternative schools or parents and legal guardians, respectively. While several strategies beyond school voucher programs, such as tax credits and educational savings accounts, have been implemented as additional strategies to increase school choice, these programs are not included within this Regional Resource.
Inland Ports and Waterways in the
SLC member States
According to June 2015 statistics released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 40 of the top 100 U.S. ports (coastal, Great Lakes and inland) in terms of tonnage are located in states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Impressively, seven of the top 10 ports were SLC state ports. The Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Houston rose to the top, ranking first and second, respectively. While the SLC has focused on ports, the economic influence of ports and the potential impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal on ports in the South for more than 15 years, this Regional Resource reviews an important allied field: emerging trends linked to the nation's, and specifically the region's, inland ports, waterways and related infrastructure.
A River Runs Through It: An Update on the Tri-State Water Wars
Throughout the history of the United States, water has been the key to determining settlement patterns and development opportunities. It is migratory in nature and often crosses many boundaries, a characteristic that has generated ownership disputes and countless conflicts. Every state in the contiguous United States shares ground or surface water resources with another state, and almost every major city is located near a river or body of water.
Water resource scarcity can affect many sectors of a state's economy as well as the region's natural ecosystems. The Southern United States, characterized by a network of major rivers and tributaries, and generally abundant precipitation, has enjoyed a generous water supply. Consequently, the region has not experienced the water disputes that have plagued the Western United States. However, development pressure, changes in precipitation patterns, and transitioning priorities and consumption levels have caused a shift in these circumstances. When water shortages do arise, they often can cause interstate conflicts. Perhaps one of the most widely reported and longest running of these interstate disputes in the Southern region involves Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, known as the "tri-state water wars." The tri-state water wars have spanned 25 years and center on water resource allocation in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins. Recognizing the importance of this dispute and the impact the resolution will have on the states involved, the issue has remained relevant to the ongoing policy work of the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). This third review of the issue advances the developments and actions that have occurred since SLC last reported on the conflict in 2010. Additionally, it should be noted that The Council of State Government's Center for Interstate Compacts has more than 75 years of experience in promoting multi-state problem solving and advocating for the role of states in determining their respective futures.
This SLC Issue Alert serves as an update to the 2010 SLC Regional Resource, Water Allocation and Management: Southern States Outlook and the earlier, 2000 SLC Regional Resource, The War Over Water and examines developments up to December 14, 2015.
Student Assessments in Southern States:
Just three years ago, almost every state in the nation belonged to a national testing consortium, such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) whereas, today, barely half continue to participate in these multi-state comparative student assessments. The Southern region, in particular, has seen a shift away from the national testing consortia to state-specified student testing. As state education systems adapt to their new educational standards of college- and career-readiness, state governments continue to modify their approach to assessing student learning toward these standards.
After dismissing PARCC and Smarter Balanced, several states' education systems began, and currently continue, a transition to various alternatives. This SLC Regional Resource provides an overview of the strategies that SLC member states have undertaken for student testing, as of October 1, 2015. Specifically, the analysis examines the current status of K-12 testing requirements implemented by the 15 SLC member states for their general public school populations and the experiences of these states as they seek to improve their student performance measurement systems. Further, the report focuses on the many adjustments and changes to K-12 English language arts and mathematics student assessment systems implemented by Southern states in the post-Common Core educational era, geared toward preparing college- and career-ready students.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Waste Tire Disposal Laws in the Southern States
Despite more than 20 years of efforts to address the issue of waste tires nationwide, large illegal stockpiles persist. In a number of reported incidents where stockpiles have caught on fire, mitigation of the site has taken up to nine years and $22 million to complete. Remediation of large illegal stockpiles has been reported to take more than five years to complete. While the tracking and disposal of waste tires continue to present challenges, legislatures in the states comprising the Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments have been focusing on this problem, creating legislation and devising mechanisms to address this problem, since 1989.
This SLC Regional Resource outlines some of the key criteria contained in the SLC states' waste tire disposal laws and rules, provides an overview of state waste tire laws and concludes with an assessment of best practices undertaken by states in the region.