What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/21

MN: 15 years later, Minnesota schools are more segregated, and achievement gap has barely budged

Fifteen years into a nationwide push to provide every student with an equal education, Minnesota schools have grown more segregated and the state’s nation-leading academic achievement gap refuses to close.

PA: Pennsylvania’s overdose deaths are underreported, record-keeping fragmented, study finds

A fragmented system of coroners and medical examiners’ offices in Pennsylvania leads to underreporting of opioid overdose deaths and an incomplete picture of the state's growing drug epidemic, according to a recent University of Virginia study and interviews with experts.

US: Incentives offered for new agents at remote border crossings

As part of a nationwide effort to increase staff at some of its most remote border crossings, Customs and Border Protection is now offering hiring bonuses and job security for people willing to make the move to remote spots in Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Texas and other locations on both the northern and southern borders.

CO: Blocked from raising taxes, Colorado lawmakers turn to fees

Since Colorado voters approved the state Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in 1992, state tax rates have gone down but fees have increased, shifting a higher share of the cost of public services to low- and middle-income residents.

SD: Airbnb agrees to collect state and local sales taxes in South Dakota

Airbnb has reached an agreement with South Dakota to start collecting and remitting state and local taxes starting Sept. 1. The move is a win for officials in South Dakota, which doesn't have an income tax and depends on sales taxes to fund government, but has seen sales tax revenue decline in part from a shift to online spending.

NY: New York City will move sidelined teachers from limbo to classrooms

For a dozen years, hundreds of New York City teachers have been paid despite not having permanent jobs, sidelined in most cases because of disciplinary problems or bad teaching records or because they had worked in poorly performing schools. Now the city plans to place roughly 400 teachers in classrooms full time, with principals and teachers getting little say in the placements.

CA: California lawmakers try again to confront high prescription drug prices

Much of the action centers on legislation that recalls a failed 2016 bill to require more disclosure around prescription prices, with lobbying efforts tracing familiar battle lines — California labor unions, health plans and consumer groups facing off against drug manufacturers.

IL: On Illinois farms, where labor is tight, immigrants welcome

As the nation's immigration debate roils, some Illinois farms are far beyond the question of whether immigrant labor is needed. They say they can't survive without it, their towns are better for it and that reforms are necessary to maintain and replenish the manpower they need to pull in each season's harvest.

OH: How the business of fentanyl controls Ohio’s opioid crisis

The predators in Ohio’s drug epidemic are powerful drug cartels that are being joined by domestic producers who filter the poison to a dealer network that frequently ends with drugs changing hands in someone’s living room. The new king of the jungle is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin that is being mixed with heroin, cocaine and even marijuana to hook users.

IA: Training in skilled trades making comeback in Iowa schools

State and industry leaders want more teens to head toward "middle skills" jobs — those requiring additional training beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree. As Iowa students head back to school this week, one of the hottest focuses is an effort to expand and elevate vocational and technical training in high school.

MA: Massachusetts' economic boom puts pressure on housing costs

Massachusetts lawmakers have filed dozens of bills in response to the state’s ever-tightening housing market. One would give tenants of residential buildings with three or more units the right of first refusal to buy their building at fair market value; other proposals would expand or tighten the definition of affordable housing and address affordable housing developments in certain communities.

OK: After rapid growth, Oklahoma charter school openings slow

From 2011 to 2015, 27 traditional charter schools opened in Oklahoma. Last year, just one charter school opened, and two are slated to open this school year.

MI: Michigan lawmaker wants to protect parents against eavesdropping charges

A Michigan state legislator wants to exempt parents from a law that makes snooping on a child's phone a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine.

‘Ban the Box’ Community Solar
Philadelphia Museum of Art