It is a concern that lawmakers across the states are continuing to hear from families and teachers: their youngest constituents are over-tested, forced into focusing heavily on high-stakes test scores at the expense of gaining high-order thinking skills, building complex reasoning abilities, and enjoying a well-rounded education. Rhode Island is no stranger to the concerns. In fact, with a new testing graduation requirement implemented by the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this year, the stakes have soared for the state's students. Specifically, the new policy ties receiving a high school diploma to performance on the controversial New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) exam, which was never intended to be a graduation requirement. As a result of the new requirement, approximately 4000 students are at risk of not graduating next year.
Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:
A pension debate in Rhode Island this fall could set the stage for how dozens of other states take up the issue when regular sessions resume in 2012. As Progressive States Network reported last month, calls for dramatic changes to public pension systems and social security are largely an opportunistic move by conservatives to advance a privatization and anti-tax agenda. The debate playing out in Rhode Island has turned into another unfortunate instance of this, driven by a take-it-or-leave-it proposal by State Treasurer Gina Raimando – a venture capitalist by trade – that would slash benefits and partially privatize the system. To support the proposal, a newly formed lobbying organization supported by financiers and business lobbyists is running a full-press political campaign that is choking out discussion of more reasonable alternatives.
As voter ID legislation continues to be rammed through state legislatures across the country, conservatives are celebrating passage of these bills, intended to suppress turnout among traditionally progressive constituencies, as a victory. However, no one is actually winning – not minority, low-income, and other historically disenfranchised voters who will be disproportionately affected by the new laws, and certainly not already-squeezed state budgets forced to find millions of dollars to make these bills a reality
To date, legislators in up to 22 states have expressed interest in introducing legislation based upon Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, despite a current federal court injunction barring implementation of many of its most draconian provisions.
In a blow to states’ leadership over clean energy, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that states cannot sue power plant operators that generate pollution. The Justice Department alleges that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency has already started to regulate greenhouse emissions; and (2) states lack standing to assert a federal nuisance claim.
As this Dispatch will detail, after considerable media hype about Arizona-style bills sweeping across the nation, the reality is that from from Nevada to Arkansas to Massachusetts to Kansas and Rhode Island,
anti-immigrant bills and ballot initiatives largely didn't move or
failed to make this fall's ballot. A key reason: most state leaders
and police chiefs recognize that requiring local governments to assume
immigration enforcement responsibilities from the federal government
will distract them from fighting violent crime and undermine trust with
local residents that are essential to successful community policing.