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Sign-Up Is Open For SLC 2016 Activities!Please visit the Kentucky Host State website for the latest updates on social events, guest and youth activities, airport transportation, and much more. Click here to access sign-ups for the Guest Program, Youth Program, and Transportation from Blue Grass Airport to Conference hotels. Please note, sign-ups for the Guest and Youth Programs, and Airport Transportation are separate from SLC Annual Meeting registration.
On January 29, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) redefined "broadband internet." Under the new definition, broadband internet connection must meet benchmark speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Such speeds allow multiple users (or devices) within a household to browse the web and stream video simultaneously, or allow a single user to stream high definition video. The Commission’s redefinition of broadband—more than six times its previous download speed benchmark of 4 Mbps—reflects the growing ubiquity of the Internet and aims to ensure the infrastructure has the capacity to meet new, data-intensive usage and its derived benefits.
This SLC Regional Resource examines the role of states in broadband deployment and its relationship to municipal and federal initiatives, with particular attention to the needs of rural areas, and the successes of Southern cities and towns. Notably, this SLC Regional Resource focuses on government-owned broadband infrastructure and direct service provision, though other policies and incentives are discussed broadly. It does not address private alternative internet service providers.
While the heroin epidemic largely has been concentrated in the Northeast, Appalachian, and Midwest regions of the country, substance abuse is an issue that crosses multiple areas of public policy, including behavioral and public health, criminal justice, and social services. As the South continues to lead the way in criminal justice reform, lessons from the plight of other regions allow SLC lawmakers to build on their efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and take a proactive stance in the heroin epidemic. In recent years, this awareness has led many SLC states to pass laws which expand availability and access to drugs that can help treat an opioid overdose and provide limited immunity from prosecution for individuals who seek medical assistance for themselves or another person experiencing an opioid overdose. This SLC Regional Resource examines what the SLC member states are doing to combat the heroin epidemic and what policies and/or practices can be implemented to mitigate its side effects and ensure a long-term solution.
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.
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 were 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.
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.
Click here to read the full report.
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.
Click here to view the full report.
With the potential reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) nearing a critical junction, a delegation of Southern states’ legislative education committee chairs traveled to Washington, D.C. between November 4-5, 2015, for meetings with influential members of Congress involved with the reauthorization process, as well as a policy session with key staff from the legislative and executive branches and a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit educational research organization.
The delegation, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), in collaboration with CSG’s Washington, D.C. Office, focused on securing a more detailed timeline for the passage of ESEA, determining the potential outcomes of the compromise that will be reached by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the versions passed by each chamber, voicing a need for states to gain greater flexibility from federal educational oversight, examining how the groundbreaking legislation will affect state educational systems and governments, and preparing for the potentially significant changes to federal educational policy.
Led by the state Senator Dolores Gresham of Tennessee, chair of the SLC Education Committee and chair of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee, the delegation comprised state Representative Tom Dickson of Georgia, vice chair of SLC Education Committee and chair of the Georgia House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Representative Rita Allison, chair of the South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee; Senator Dave Sypolt, chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee; and Representative Kathryn Swan, chair of the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
During their Washington, D.C. visit, delegation members met and discussed the ESEA reauthorization and related matters with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP); U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri; Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Congressman Alex Mooney of West Virginia; and Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
During an afternoon policy session, several policy experts and key government officials provided further insights into the current status of ESEA reauthorization and the positions of the executive and legislatives branches that ultimately must approve any compromise. From the U.S. Department of Education, Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Simone Hardeman-Jones, special assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, provided the view of the administration; David Cleary, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and the majority staff director for the Senate HELP Committee, provided the majority view of the U.S. Senate; and Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, provided a view from the nonprofit educational research sector.