Posted on November 2, 2015 in Other
Presently, it appears that most of the action related to the promotion of community gardens and farms in abandoned urban areas has occurred at the local or municipal level. However, there is legislation in California, The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act (Assembly Bill 551), introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2013, that emerged at the state level. This piece of legislation, that drew bipartisan support in both the California Assembly and Senate, went into effect on January 1, 2014. The bill aims to accomplish two things: (1) increase the use of privately owned, vacant land for urban agriculture and (2) improve land security for urban agriculture projects. The legislation does this by allowing city governments in California, with approval from their county board of supervisors, to designate areas within their boundaries as "urban agriculture incentive zones." In these areas, landowners who sign a contract to commit their land to agricultural use for at least five years will receive a reduction in their property taxes. Specifically, their parcel's property tax assessment will be based on the agricultural value of the land rather than the market-rate value of the land. California's legislation generated interest across the country, particularly at the local level. (More can be learned about the state effort here and the actual legislation here.)
As a result of this legislation, a number of California local governments have initiated measures to promote these urban agricultural zones. (Further information about these efforts can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.) The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are prominently featured in these initiatives at the municipal level in California.
There has also been action at the state level in Maryland. Specifically, a bill introduced in the Maryland Senate, SB 541, in April 2015 authorized the mayor and city council of the city of Baltimore to grant personal property tax credits to supermarkets built in a specified food desert. This was signed into law by the governor. (More information about this legislation is available here). Given the push at the local level, the city of Baltimore also initiated additional measures (Read about these efforts here). Additional information related to efforts in Baltimore is highlighted in publications provided by the Community Law Center in Maryland, the state's only legal services organization dedicated solely to strengthening neighborhoods and the nonprofit sector. In this connection, the Center has created a new resource for those engaged in urban agriculture in Baltimore.
Beyond these state initiatives, the focus of policymakers to assist the formation of community gardens and farms in abandoned urban areas and promote steps to eradicate food deserts has largely been at the local level. Details from 10 cities that are leading the way with innovative urban agriculture ordinances that provide a blueprint for a new economic future grounded in sustainable food production in urban centers can be found at this link. The cities represented are Detroit; Austin; Boston; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland; Chicago; Seattle; Baltimore; Milwaukee; and Minneapolis. In each of the descriptions of the activities in these cities, there is a hyperlink that provides additional details on the specific city's program. Along those lines, another article that examines the efforts of local policymakers to rejuvenate parts of their cities through urban agricultural projects can be found here. Brooklyn, New York, is another city that is pursuing innovative urban agricultural strategies. (Learn more about this effort here). In December 2013, Boston passed Article 89, a city-wide zoning article that allows for commercial urban agriculture in the city. (Here are details on these initiatives).
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development very closely tracks trends associated with vacant and abandoned properties, particularly in urban areas, given the range of adverse consequences that related to these types of vacant and abandoned properties. A report entitled Vacant and Abandoned Properties: Turning Liabilities Into Assets provides valuable insights on these federal government efforts.
Finally, there are several non-profit organizations that have been active on this topic. One such organization is the Rid-All Green Partnership that converted an empty and neglected portion of land in Cleveland's Kinsman Neighborhood into an urban farm that grows produce to bring healthy, local food to area institutions and citizens while also training others to do the same.
Photo credit to Sergio Ruiz.
Posted on October 23, 2015 in Education
In February 2015, the SLC released a Regional Resource, Common Core in the South: Where the States Stand Now, providing details on the status, and recent legislative developments, of the Common Core State Standards up to December 26, 2014.
This SLC recent research is a brief update to the February 2015 SLC Regional Resource, and includes short summaries of any developments that have occurred in the SLC member states in relation to Common Core up to October 19, 2015. As it stands, the majority of states have adopted 90 percent or more of Common Core and customized them to invididual state-specific learning environments and priorities. For complete details regarding SLC member state developments related to Common Core, please refer to the SLC Regional Resource.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on November 20, 2011, after a year of reviewing the needs of Alabama students, the Board adopted Common Core along with a set of additional state-specific standards, collectively referred to as the Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Legislative efforts (e.g., SB101 of 2015) to repeal Common Core continued during the 2015 legislative session, but did not succeed. The Alabama College- & Career-Ready Standards continue to be used throughout the state.
On March 13, 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson created the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review. Following recommendations by the Council, the state pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) on July 9, 2015. The Council also recommended further review, but not elimination, of Common Core by the state Department of Education. The governor also recommended changing the name of the state standards.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on September 23, 2014, Governor Rick Scott called on the Department of Education to hold public hearings addressing Common Core. Following these meetings, the Department supplemented the standards with calculus, cursive writing and a small number of other criteria and, along with these enhancements, rolled them out as the Florida State Standards. Presently, the Florida State Standards continue to be used, and there is no indication of any widespread effort to repeal or replace them.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on July 8, 2010, the Board of Education adopted an augmented version of Common Core, which it called Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS). In August 2013, the governor ordered the Board of Education to review CCGPS; eliminate a series of Common Core suggested readings and exercises for ELA, history, social studies, science and technical subjects; and develop a new social studies curriculum. After reviewing the Georgia Performance Standards, and a 60-day public comment period, the state Board of Education adopted newly revised K-12 learning standards for English language arts and mathematics. About a month after the new standards were adopted, the Board also voted to rename them the Georgia Standards of Excellence. The standards will be implemented during the 2015-16 school year.
The commonwealth continues to maintain Common Core and just entered the fourth year of testing aligned with Common Core. A survey conducted by the state Department of Education from August 25, 2014, through April 30, 2015, found that 88 percent of 4,000 respondents approved of the standards.
After years of debate, Governor Bobby Jindal and the Legislature forged a compromise that created a Common Core review committee. Media sources indicate that the standards will be “tweaked,” but not replaced.
During the 2015 legislative session, the Legislature passed a bill to review Common Core. The bill was vetoed by Governor Phil Bryant. In May 2015, State Superintendent Carey Wright announced the creation of a panel by the state Department of Education to review the standards.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on July 14, 2014, Governor Jay Nixon signed into law House Bill 1490, which abolishes Common Core by the 2016-17 school year and replaces them with new standards that will be developed by work groups comprised of stakeholders in educational quality and residents of Missouri. Eight work groups assembled, each with a mandate to make recommendations on K-12 educational standards to the Board of Education by October 1, 2015. Proposed standards for English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies have been developed and will be presented at a public hearing of the state Board of Education on October 26, 2015. Public commentary on the proposed standards will be received from November 2 to December 2, 2015. Once fully developed and vetted, the Missouri Learning Standards will be implemented during the 2015-16 school year.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on July 22, 2014, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law Senate Bill 812, ordering the Board to conduct a comprehensive review of Common Core. The Academic Standards Review Commission, charged with revamping academic standards for North Carolina schools, has indicated that the state standards will require major revisions. The Commission is expected to make a recommendation to state lawmakers by December 2015.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on June 5, 2014, Governor Fallin signed House Bill 3399, directing the state to return to the Oklahoma educational standards (Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS) used before the adoption of Commo n Core, and charging the Board of Education with developing new standards by 2016. The process for drafting new K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards continues. A time line crafted by the state Department of Education indicates that new standards will be approved by December 2015.
On March 11, 2015, by a directive of the General Assembly, after a thorough review of Common Core, the state Board of Education adopted new educational standards for K-12 English language arts and mathematics. Some estimates suggest that as much as 90 percent of the new standards are aligned with Common Core.
House Bill 1035 of 2015, signed by the governor, requires the state Board of Education to implement a process to review and replace Common Core. The review committees established by the Board will be required to recommend new standards to be fully implemented by the 2017-18 school year.
Virginia did not adopt Common Core and House Bill 1752 of 2015 would have prohibited the state Board of Education from adopting Common Core. The measure passed both chambers, but was vetoed by the governor, and did not pass a veto override vote in the Senate.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, after some customization by the West Virginia Board of Education, Common Core was adopted on June 2, 2010, as West Virginia’s Next Generation Content Standards. In 2015, a bill to fully repeal the standards and aligned standardized test was approved by the House of Delegates in February, but a compromised version of the bill, which would have given education officials a year to write new standards before the current ones were removed, failed on the final night of the session. The West Virginia Department of Education has launched “West Virginia Academic Spotlight,” a five month review of the state’s Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives. A public commentary period ended on September 30, 2015, and the comments are currently being reviewed by a team of diverse stakeholders, who will then make recommendations to the West Virginia Board of Education. Senate President Bill Cole has indicated that Common Core will be repealed during next year’s legislature session.