Maine Governor Touts High Standards, Not More Money
By Robert C. Johnston
School reform highlighted by new learning standards and streamlined management is the key to Maine's economic future, Gov. Angus S. King Jr. said last week in his State of the State Address.
"More and more ... decisions about where companies locate and grow will depend on the quality of local education," the first-term governor said during his speech to the state legislature.
The Independent governor made the familiar case that "money is not the issue" for school improvement. Echoing the sentiments of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, who made a similar declaration earlier this month, he said higher standards are a more important ingredient to improve schools.
Mr. King said the new standards plan will top his legislative package, which will include no new money for schools.
Based on early task-force drafts, the standards are expected to encompass eight subject areas. But they have already drawn fire for being too general, a criticism leveled by Mr. King himself.
In English, for example, students would be expected to know how language and literature help in understanding "the human experience."
Developers have said that the proposed standards intentionally leave room for local school systems to find their own definitions.
Mr. King urged lawmakers to find $2 million in funds in the two-year budget passed last year to familiarize teachers with the standards.
"It's the work of the classroom teacher that will be critical to the success of this initiative," he said of his plans for the 214,000-student system.
Mr. King said that he will also propose financial incentives for consolidating business functions among school districts.
"We just can't afford the luxury of school administrative units reinventing the administrative wheel with separate transportation offices, payrolls, accounting, and lunch programs," he added.
Mr. King has recently made headlines around the state for endorsing exit exams for graduating high school seniors.
Carper Wants Charters, Graduation Standards
Sounding the same education themes he advanced last year, Gov. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware has announced his plan to open several new charter schools next fall, while continuing to implement more-rigorous academic standards and improve technology in the schools.
As the state completes work on tough academic standards, the Democratic governor asked lawmakers in the split legislature to approve higher graduation standards that would require more credits in math, science, and foreign languages.
He also used his Jan. 18 State of the State Address to propose adding more time to the school day to help students meet the stricter requirements.
Mr. Carper, in the final year of his first term, emphasized that education reforms this year would also focus on implementing school-based decisionmaking and providing students and parents with more educational options.
"We should leave it to teachers, parents, and administrators within individual schools to determine what works best for them," the governor said.
Though he offered no specific plans, the governor also stressed that spending on early-childhood programs and safety and discipline programs should continue to be increased.
Cayetano Spares Education From Cuts
Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano says that despite Hawaii's current economic slump, he wants to keep education his "highest priority."
After minimizing education cuts during hard times last year, he said his budget plan for fiscal 1997 will spare the state's $631 million school instructional funding from any cuts at all.
And as the state works its way out of gloomy economic times, he urged lawmakers to generally leave schools alone--a policy that he said is paying dividends.
Efforts to hand schools more autonomy in Hawaii's single statewide school system have led to a number of community-based management councils that have involved parents and taxpayers in school decisionmaking.
"Let them teach without us--you and I--burdening them with new laws and new demands," the Democrat told the heavily Democratic legislature in his remarks last week.
Discipline, Internet Access Top Glendening's Agenda
Gov. Parris N. Glendening focused on strengthening Maryland's student-discipline codes and boosting technology spending in his annual speech to legislators on Jan. 17.
His package of discipline initiatives includes $2.5 million to construct and run alternative classrooms for disruptive youths. The Democratic governor also proposed that parents pay if their children damage school property and that parents and students sign a "code of conduct" contract with their schools.
"We will give teachers back control of their classroom and free them to spend their time conducting science labs instead of weapons searches," the governor, now in his second year in office, said.
Mr. Glendening also proposed a five-year, $55 million grant program that would outfit all the state's schools for the Internet computer network and provide computers and training for teachers.
Fordice Sells Democrats On Charter Schools
Gov. Kirk Fordice has told lawmakers he will try again to persuade them that charter schools would be good for Mississippi.
Mr. Fordice, a Republican who clashed often with the legislature controlled by Democrats during his first term, this time told lawmakers that they should not let a promising idea that is gaining popularity pass them by.
"Let us move Mississippi to the forefront of this national movement to involve parents and communities in the education of their children," the governor, who was re-elected last November, said in his Jan. 16 address.
Charter school laws, approved in 20 states, allow teachers and others to apply to create schools that are only minimally regulated by the state. The schools operate with state funding.
Mr. Fordice, meanwhile, continues to stump for his PRIME program, an effort that grew out of his gridlock with lawmakers.
The proposed constitutional amendment would create massive school deregulation throughout the state, surpassing the decentralization efforts of even most charter school backers. (See Education Week, Oct. 25, 1995.)
In his speech, Mr. Fordice also asked lawmakers to approve legislation giving a $3,000 annual merit bonus to teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Money Is an Issue, Gov. Kitzhaber Says
Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, launching his second year as the state's chief executive, says lawmakers should start putting more money in the state's education budget.
The Democrat gave a speech to the Portland City Club even though the Oregon legislature does not meet in regular session this year.
But Gov. Kitzhaber said the Republican-controlled legislature must address school-finance inequities and find more money to pay for job training.
Funding for education "should be even more important as Oregon--and the world--continue to make the transition from an economy based on labor and natural-resource extraction to one based on information and knowledge. But this is not the case," he said.
After being preoccupied by pressing crime issues in the first year of his term, Mr. Kitzhaber said he will release a comprehensive education agenda in the next few weeks.
"I am not willing to wait until a crisis occurs before taking action," he said.