4 Education Policy Tools to Use in 2021

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A new legislative session brings policymakers another opportunity to examine their state’s education policy landscape. How can education leaders better support students, families and teachers in these unprecedented times? What needs can be met with policy changes? Education Commission of the States is here to support education leaders like you with four unmatched state policy resources.

Our State Education Policy Tracking database is a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive resource for education leaders looking for unique policy approaches to issues in their state. This interactive map includes enacted and vetoed legislation from 2017-20. We currently track 45 broad education policy issues, spanning from early learning to workforce development. In 2020, we tracked over 8,000 pieces of legislation, and nearly 850 bills were enacted or vetoed!

In addition to providing summary and analysis on thousands of pieces of legislation, our State Education Policy Tracking database is useful for spotting the latest policy trends. Using data from our 2020 policy tracking, we saw a 180% increase in the number of enacted and vetoed bills related to online learning, as compared to 2019. As classrooms moved online, state legislation kept pace and increased broadband access, appropriated funds to support virtual classrooms and reimagined school accountability to account for virtual instruction. We also observed a 53% increase in the number of K-12 finance bills this year, many in response to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sometimes, the best ideas aren’t acted on the first time around. At Education Commission of the States, we don’t just analyze enacted legislation —  we track a few key topics from introduction to final action to provide a nuanced view of what’s trending across the states with our State Education Policy Watch List. Using this database, education policymakers can keep an eye on what other policymakers are focused on in their states and what legislation has been passed. Are you interested in improving the teaching profession? In 2020, we tracked over 1,300 bills related to teachers. Are you working to lower the cost of a postsecondary degree or credential? We can show you 550 bills that address postsecondary affordability and finance.

Elevating teachers and making college affordable are not new issues. To learn how education policy solutions have evolved over time, visit our state legislation archives. We have been tracking and summarizing enacted and vetoed legislation across the education spectrum since 1996. Your state’s legislative history is recorded in our archives, categorized and summarized into over 270 issue areas. That’s 24 years of legislative trends and analysis right at your fingertips!

Our final and signature policy product is the Governors’ State of the State Addresses: Education-Related Proposals. Every year, in real time, we track and categorize the education related proposals mentioned in Governors’ State of the State Addresses. Our interactive map and analysis tool is accompanied by a report that identifies top education trends. Using data from our map and reports, we tracked the rise of top policy topics like dual enrollment, school choice, school safety and, most recently, student health. We will update the resource in 2021 as soon as the first governor makes their remarks.

While 2021 is a new year with new challenges, Education Commission of the States remains your trusted source for nonpartisan education policy research. We invite you to spend five minutes exploring our four state policy resources to learn more about innovative state approaches to today’s most pressing education challenges.

Author profile
Project Manager at Education Commission of the States | ewhinnery@ecs.org

As a project manager, Erin supports the foundational research services at Education Commission of the States and has a particular interest in the areas of postsecondary access and success. Before joining the organization, Erin earned her master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Denver and a bachelor's degree in English from Boston College. On weekends, Erin is an amateur crafter and quilter.

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