Legislative Tracker: Bills to Address Teacher Shortages (2023-2024)

Across the 11-state Midwest, state lawmakers are considering a litany of legislative proposals seeking to address teacher shortages. The table on this page lists legislation introduced and/or enacted during the current legislative session. Among the policies being pursued under these new laws:

  • changes to teacher licensure requirements;
  • upskilling pathways for paraprofessionals;
  • new financial assistance for new and veteran teachers, and;
  • modifications in the requirements for substitute teachers

CSG Midwest is tracking teacher-shortage measures in state legislatures as part of its support of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Education & Workforce Development Committee. It will continue to do so throughout the biennium.

The goal of this tracker is to identify and list all relevant proposals and laws initiated this legislative session. If you believe a proposal or law from 2023 or 2024 should be added to this tracker, please contact Derek Cantù, CSG Midwest’s lead staff person for the Midwestern Legislative Conference Education & Workforce Development Committee.

For more information about legislation enacted in recent years, read the policy brief “State Efforts to Combat Teacher Shortages”

See previous legislative tracker of teacher-shortage-related laws enacted in 2023.

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Ranked (Or Rankled?): States Consider Ranked Choice Voting Methods

Throughout American history, the method of elections and voting rules have changed regularly — whether legislatively or through court actions. Currently, a new(er) frontier is forming regarding a form of voting that could upend how states in the South (and nationwide) currently hold their elections and runoffs: ranked-choice voting.* Despite its novelty, these proposals have seen a broad spectrum of bipartisan support – and opposition.

Click here to read and download the full publication

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It’s a Grand New Flag!

By Trey Delida

“Let’s run it up the flagpole” is a figurative phrase legislators use when workshopping a new idea. Recently, however, the phrase has taken on a literal meaning as a number of states have introduced or approved a major redesign of their state flags.

“In the last 20-25 years, there are two fundamental reasons why states are changing their flags. The first is offensive symbolism. The second is poor design,” according to Ted Kaye, secretary of the North American Vexillology Association (NAVA).

Kaye has been involved in several flag redesigns in the states and internationally in the past two decades. In 2016, he compiled the works of 20 vexillologists/vexillographers into a booklet entitled, “’Good’ Flag, ‘Bad’ Flag,” which lists the five principles of good flag design. These guiding principles are often referenced in the flag redesign process and have become a touchstone for the creation of new flags.

The Five Principles of Flag Design

Based on these principles, states like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Maryland and South Carolina exhibit the qualities of good flag design through their simple yet memorable composition.

Almost 20 years ago, NAVA administered a survey asking people to rate the design qualities of U.S. and Canadian state, provincial and territorial flags. The resulting report was disseminated to media groups across the country with varying reactions, which Kaye believes changed how states viewed their flags.

“It was really the first time on a national scale, that state flags were compared to each other and shared with the public,” Kaye said. “States are starting to understand that the flag can be an important symbol representing themselves to the rest of the world and their residents. Call it branding, if you wish.”

Recent legislation has shown that lawmakers and voters alike feel that the “seal on a bedsheet” design no longer represents them. Such is the case for states like Utah, which recently voted to raise a new flag.

In 2023, four years after legislation was introduced, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill enacting a new state flag. Sen. Daniel McCay, however, became involved much earlier in the process, thanks to the 2015 TED Talk by Roman Mars, “Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed.”

“After I watched that podcast, I called up the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Steve Handy, and said, ‘Steve, I think we might need to do this,’” McCay recalled.

A handful of flag bills failed to pass in 2019 before the passage of SB 48, which was sponsored by Handy and McCay in 2021. The resulting Utah State Flag Task Force, comprised of six subcommittees, launched its “More Than a Flag” campaign that accepted thousands of potential designs from enthused Utahns.

“During the process I talked to thousands of Utahns. I traveled the state and talked to people in grocery stores, I talked to people in hardware stores — anywhere I was for that year and a half, I was talking to people about the flag,” McCay said. “It became this mission in some ways to capture, you know, Utah and make a flag that was representative of that. I was worried about not getting it right.”

The final design resulted from 70 people’s work pieced together to create a more modern emblem representing Utah’s heritage and landscape. Receiving the name “Beehive Flag,” the new design highlights the state’s snow-capped mountains, the southern red-rock canyons, and its historic ties to the early Mormon pioneers through the beehive symbol.

“One thing that I love about the new flag, is that it is 100% about Utah. I think that is a tribute to the iterative, constant public outreach and public process that helped refine the design to make it what it is.”

While Utah’s new flag is largely considered a success, it is not without criticism. Prior to the new flag’s adoption, opponents collected signatures to place the issue on the ballot. While these efforts failed, it is an indicator that this level of change can be difficult for state leaders to navigate. In an effort to find a middle ground, lawmakers moved to keep the original Utah flag as the historic state flag.

On May 11, the North Star State officially adopted its new state flag, replacing the original, which brought up painful memories for Native American communities. The original state crest and flag depicted a white settler farming while a Native American rides off on a horse. Army Capt. Seth Eastman designed the seal in 1858 and his wife’s accompanying poem about the design confirmed its problematic interpretation.

For Sen. Mary Kunesh, a descendant of Standing Rock Lakota, this cause was especially close to home.

Kunesh was a primary author of SF 386 (2023), which passed with bipartisan support and subsequently launched the commission to redesign Minnesota’s flag.

“Not only did the state come to the realization of what that flag depicted, but it also gave a pause to understand the historical context of our indigenous people,” Kunesh said. “It allowed us to create a flag that really represents the Minnesota that we are today.”

Through the State Emblems Redesign Commission, state leaders worked in conjunction with designers, vexillologists and other members of the public to find a design that accurately reflected the state’s diverse communities and history. The Minnesota Historical Society was tasked with providing administrative support, gathering participants from across the state and setting up processes for design submissions and public comments.

According to the report of the commission, a total of 2,128 flag designs were submitted, garnering 21,882 public comments for redesign finalists via the main commission page.

The final design depicts a dark blue interpretive shape of Minnesota’s outline with an eight-point star in the center, representing the night sky and the North Star, or the state’s motto “L’étoile du Nord.” The other side of the flag is a bright blue color, symbolizing water, as Minnesota is commonly referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

One of the most prominent features in the Minnesota State Capitol is the large eight-pointed star on the floor of the rotunda beneath the dome. Throughout history, this star has been used in many cultures across the globe but was used extensively in quilting among Indigenous tribes. A marked difference from the original imagery.

“It’s phenomenal that I, with my Indigenous background and my unique knowledge of the history of Minnesota, was able to do this in partnership with so many people who believed in how important it was,” Kunesh said. “I think this is another indicator that Minnesota is willing to listen and learn and make positive changes.”

This sentiment rings true for Mississippi, which adopted a new flag in 2021 to replace the original which depicted a Confederate flag in the top left corner.

For Utah, a state founded on the principles of hard work, the new flag gives reverence to the original battle for statehood while setting the stage for a new era. Every facet of the new flag is formed out of a hexagon, the strongest naturally occurring shape.

“What I hope about the new flag, and we hope, is that Utah will be known for our strength,” McCay said.

For Minnesota, the new flag symbolizes a change in direction, one that all Minnesotans can stand behind.

“I think it demonstrates that the future of Minnesota is worth working for and worth fighting for,” Kunesh said. “We’re a people that are working hard to achieve inclusion and equality, and by exchanging or removing the hurtful flag that we had before, we’re taking another step closer to the goal of ensuring that we represent a positive Minnesota.”

Other states are still considering legislation that would change or modify their current state flag, including Michigan and Maine. In Illinois, the legislature plans on starting the redesign process later this year.


Groundswell of Support to Continue the Second Chance Act: More than 150 Organizations Nationwide Support Reauthorization

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and 175 organizations from across the country have signed a letter urging Congress to support reauthorization of the Second Chance Act (SCA). The organizations represent a broad range of sectors including behavioral health, business, faith communities, law enforcement, and others. The bipartisan legislation extends and enhances reentry programs that provide critical services around career training, housing, childcare, and treatment for people with behavioral health and substance use disorders.

The organizations in support joined the CSG Justice Center in emphasizing the value of SCA programs in strengthening reentry services, reducing recidivism, and improving public safety. The letter urges leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees to advance this critical piece of legislation and provide individuals, families, and communities nationwide with access to services and resources that will help ensure the success of people reentering society after incarceration.

Since the Second Chance Act passed 15 years ago, over 1,100 grants totaling more than $600 million have been administered to 845 agencies across 49 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, local and Tribal governments, as well as reentry-focused nonprofit organizations. Between 2009 and 2023, SCA grants impacted more than 442,000 people involved in the criminal justice system who participated in reentry services or parole and probation programs.

With over 600,000 people returning home from prison each year and even more exiting local jails, SCA programs are vital to ensuring public safety and reducing recidivism rates.

Reauthorization of the Second Chance Act will extend critical programs to reduce recidivism, invest in communities, and promote public safety by continuing to:

  • Reauthorize key grant programs that provide vital services, supports, and resources for people reentering their communities after incarceration;
  • Expand allowable uses for supportive and transitional housing services for people reentering their communities from prison and jail; and
  • Enhance addiction treatment services for people with substance use disorders, including peer recovery services, case management, and overdose prevention.

Legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 5, 2024 (S. 4477) by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Peter Welch (D-VT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in April (H.R. 8028) by Representatives Carol Miller (R-WV), Danny Davis (D-IL), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH), and Darin LaHood (R-IL).

READ THE NATIONAL SUPPORT LETTER

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Nuclear Waste: What It Is and How the United States Handles It

Nuclear waste related to nuclear energy can be divided into two categories: low-level waste and high-level waste. Currently, four low-level waste storage facilities exist across the country. Southern states can ship low-level waste out of state (with the exceptions of South Carolina and Texas, both of which house facilities, though South Carolina currently does not accept waste from other Southern states). For high-level waste, there is no long-term high-level waste storage facility in the United States. Therefore, high level nuclear waste is stored onsite or near active and deactivated reactors. This is seen as a temporary solution until a long-term high-level nuclear waste facility is built, which has been delayed for decades.

Click Here to Read and Download the Full Publication

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Statement by David Adkins, Executive Director/CEO of The Council of State Governments on the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 1944

“Let’s go.”

With those words, General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of Expeditionary Forces, gave the order to commence Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious assault in the history of the world.

The Council of State Governments pauses to remember the tens of thousands of allied troops who came ashore on D-Day and the thousands who perished. Their bravery on this day eight decades ago began the successful liberation of Europe from Hitler’s absolute tyranny. Their heroism preserved the freedoms we enjoy today.

As dawn broke over the English Channel beaches of France today, the sun is setting on the Greatest Generation. The boys who stormed those beaches, many still in their teens, are now centenarians. Soon, the living memory of that day will be extinct. We must keep alive the memory of the soldiers buried in the sacred ground near where they fell. We must remember all those whose preparations, sacrifice and leadership made such an audacious operation a success. This includes the women of America who helped build the weapons essential to winning the war and the marginalized Americans whose patriotism never wavered.

Last June, I walked with my daughter among the graves of the fallen heroes in the American cemetery in Normandy, on the cliff above the beaches. My daughter was then just a few years older than the men whose grave markers were carved with June 6, 1944, as their last day.

We couldn’t imagine how scared they must have been as they entered the battle. We thought of all those they loved back home who would receive a telegram sharing the news of their death. We paused to reflect on the horrors of the concentration camps and the pure evil and brutality of the Nazi authoritarian regime. We hoped that somewhere on another dawn, those who gave the last full measure of devotion were comforted knowing that their sacrifice would help defeat Hitler within just 11 months of D-Day.

We remembered my dad, her grandfather, who left high school early to join the Navy and served in the Pacific. We paused in front of one of the many white marble crosses whose inscription read, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”

It was impossible not to think about all the futures that ended on that day. It was impossible not to be profoundly grateful for what that unnamed young American, and so many others, were willing to do for me, my daughter and the generations of Americans that followed.

The Council of State Governments works to support those who serve our country in uniform abroad and to help the families of service members pursue the American dream.

Through our partnership with the United States Department of Defense, we help service members exercise their right to vote, no matter where they are stationed in the world. Through our National Center for Interstate Compacts, we help state leaders draft and enact multistate agreements to reduce barriers for spouses of service members to practice their profession as they move from state to state.

Additionally, through our affiliated organization, the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3), we help states ensure that children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children. We are committed to assisting state officials carry out their priority to serve the men and women who serve us in uniform.

While the American, British and Canadian forces that braved the seas and the chaos of war 80 years ago must never be forgotten, we, today, must dedicate ourselves to carrying on in their spirit. Every generation must shoulder the responsibility of citizenship and fight to ensure our freedoms in their own way. I am honored to witness the work of the elected and appointed leaders of state government who boldly do just that every day.

The lessons of D-Day remind us that, as Americans, that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us, that alliances with other nations make us stronger, that freedom is worth fighting to protect. America remains the leader of the free world today because of the everyday men and women whose service makes America great.

In times of crisis, leadership matters.

Today, Europe faces another threat from a dictator. Again, the United States and its allies stand with the people of an embattled European ally, Ukraine, to keep Europe free, preserve democracy and enforce international norms. It is tragic that the lessons of loss war teaches us are lost on Vladimir Putin. It is beyond comprehension that hundreds of thousands of lives have been extinguished because of Putin’s misguided attempt at conquest

D-Day was a turning point in the war. In honor of those brave souls who did their duty on June 6, 1944, we must continue the work of building a safer world and a more perfect union.

Let’s Go.