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Recent K-12 Curriculum Legislation

20 October 2016

State legislatures in the previous months have been passing bills to alter and add to their public school systems’ curriculums. Some states are creating new job training programs to boost their economy, while others are changing curriculum to make students increasingly well-rounded on many subjects. Though different pieces of legislation, the goal of these policies is to benefit the public school systems and increase the quality of education.

In New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan recently signed into law SB 369, a bipartisan bill that requires New Hampshire public schools to add drug and alcohol education to health education programs. Hassan said that to “help prevent addiction in the first place” the state must [educate] young people about the dangers of substance abuse.”

New Hampshire is one of the states with the largest heroin and opioid epidemics. Governor Hassan wants to “stem and reverse” the tide of the epidemic to save lives, and is using the public school system to advance this desire by incorporating drug and alcohol education to the curriculum.

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder signed HB 4493, which adds genocide education to curriculum in the Michigan public school system. The governor said that teaching about genocide is important because “we should remember and learn about these terrible events in our past while continuing to work toward creating a more tolerant society.” The genocides taught will include the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

However, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations is opposed to this bill, saying it paints Turkey in a bad light in terms of the Armenian genocide, which has never been classified by the United Nations as a genocide.

Maryland governor Larry Hogan recently, in collaboration with IBM, Baltimore schools, the Maryland Department of Education, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Maryland, announced the development of two new P-TECH high schools in Baltimore City, Maryland. He announced this after signing into law SB 376, establishing the schools and a grant for their operation.

The P-TECH school model combines high school, college, and work experience, with students graduating with a high school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree in a STEM field. One school will focus on cybersecurity and IT, and the other school will focus on health IT.

Hogan said that the new program will give students the chance to “gain in-demand skills,” while also giving employers a “steady pipeline to skilled professionals.” This change in curriculum of schools is celebrated by Dr. Jay Perman, who says the schools will meet the city’s growing needs. “Our population of health scientists and professionals needs to better reflect the populations of people they serve,” said Perman.  

However, critics of the new program are opposed to the fact that the P-TECH schools are being expanded by tearing down multiple properties around the city.

Similarly, in Nebraska, Governor Pete Ricketts recently announced that two Nebraska companies, MetalQuest and Distefano, have been chosen as the grant recipients for Nebraska’s Developing Youth Talent Initiative, outlined in LB 956. The program aims to connect public school 7th and 8th grade students in the state with careers in the manufacturing and technology sectors through hands-on career exploration.

The governor said that efforts like these help “build the 21st-century workforce Nebraska's industries and companies need to remain competitive.”  The schools will offer curriculum tailored to industry needs, which include building skilled labor by creating a manufacturing talent pipeline.

Finally, in West Virginia, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed HB 4014, a bill stopping the implementation of the Common Core standards. Common Core is a hot button, national issue involving adopting education standards to receive competitive grant funding. The legislature in West Virginia passed the bill, but it was subsequently vetoed by the governor.

The governor, according to State Board of Education President Mike Green, vetoed the bill “to ensure standards were preserved.” West Virginia revised their standards last year as well, as according to Green, it is important to the governor to measure educational standards year after year.

Wade Linger, an opponent of the bill, resigned from the Board of Education after the bill was introduced, saying that the bill “attacks standards about which [legislators] know nothing.”

Overall, there have been quite a few shifts in the curriculum of public schools in several states driven by their legislative bodies. Many states, like New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Maryland, have passed bills in response to current or future needs of the state that legislators believe can be aided by a change to the curriculum. In Michigan, the change to the curriculum is aimed at creating a more conscious generation of students by adding elements to Social Studies curriculum. In West Virginia, the legislature is taking a stand for state regulation of education by prohibiting the implementation of national Common Core standards.

Many states are reforming their curriculums, with some focusing on technical education and school to job pipelines, while others are revising their state standards. The end goal for all of these states is to create the best quality of education for students.

Madison Comstock is a student  at The University of Texas at Austin and a Public Relations major. She is currently interning with Vote Smart in the Key Votes Department. For more information on internship opportunities with Vote Smart, contact us at or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.


Related tags: blog, education, education-jobs, state-legislation

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