Owens Wants To Spend More on Colorado Charter Schools
Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado used his first State of the State Address to call for more money for charter schools, waivers of bureaucratic rules for traditional public schools, and a report card for every school.
The Republican governor this month replaced Roy Romer, a Democrat who retired after serving 12 years in office. This is the first time in 24 years that Colorado's governorship and both legislative houses have been controlled by Republicans.
On education, Gov. Owens on Jan. 14 called for allowing schools to "cut through those state mandates and red tape which stifle education excellence."
He said charter schools, which are publicly funded but largely independent, typically ask for and receive waivers "from the same 16 state laws" concerning education, and he proposed giving regular public schools some of the same flexibility. Under proposed legislation that he supports, the only four education laws that could not be waived are those governing state academic standards and 3rd grade literacy, school accreditation, charter schools, and school finance.
The governor also called for financing charter schools at the same level as regular schools. Currently, districts keep a small percentage of state per-pupil funding for each charter school student.
Mr. Owens also said he was working on a plan for school report cards that would address student test results, per-pupil funding, teacher qualifications, and the dropout rate for each public school.
The governor also called for a series of tax cuts that would return $3 billion to taxpayers over the next five years. He proposed a permanent reduction in the state income-tax rate from 5 percent to 4.75 percent. He said the tax cuts would not result in any decrease in education spending.
Indiana Full-Day Kindergarten on O'Bannon's Wish List
Gov. Frank L. O'Bannon urged lawmakers in his State of the State Address this month to make full-day kindergarten available to all Indiana children by 2003.
"I want to sign full-day kindergarten into law this session," he said Jan. 12. Full-day kindergarten in Evansville, Ind., has helped produce higher test scores for students now in 1st through 8th grade, he said.
The governor, a Democrat, also proposed that the state devise a test to identify 2nd graders who are having trouble reading and give those students help to learn to read by the 3rd grade. One-third of the state's 3rd graders, he said, cannot pass the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress assessment, known as ISTEP-Plus.
Mr. O'Bannon asked for better planning for school safety and advocated greater accountability for schools. He said the state's report cards on schools should be expanded to include such information as the degree to which parents are active in a school, the number of students doing remedial work, and how the number of students who start and finish the academic year at the same school. Schools that don't measure up should receive help from outsiders, he said.
--Mary Ann Zehr
Kansas Graves Wants To Spend More on K-12 Schools
Kansas Gov. Bill Graves declared that children will be his first priority in his Jan. 12 State of the State Address.
The Republican governor, who is beginning his second term, proposed raising his state's K-12 education budget by more than $87 million in the coming fiscal year. Kansas now spends $2.11 billion on its schools.
Mr. Graves' budget recommendation includes additional dollars for general per-pupil spending, special education, and continuing efforts to equalize funding for all school districts. It also would provide $1.4 million in aid targeted to helping 100,000 at-risk students. Mr. Graves also wants to spend $1 million to help prepare at-risk 4-year olds for school.
In what the governor calls "an attempt to recognize the instrumental role teachers play" in a child's educational success, his budget proposal includes money for scholarships for 65 teachers to achieve certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In addition, Mr. Graves recommended paying bonuses to teachers who successfully complete certification.
"It is my hope that this heightens the interest in and rewards teaching excellence," the governor said.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Mississippi Fordice Uses Final Address To Laud Teacher Successes
In his final State of the State Address, Gov. Kirk Fordice told lawmakers that Mississippi's support for nationally certified teachers is one of the success stories of his administration.
Mr. Fordice, who was elected in 1991 and is in the last year of his second term, commended the legislature for giving $6,000 annual raises to teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Mississippi has 62 such master-teachers, with an additional 670 out of the state's 30,000 classroom teachers working toward such professional recognition this year.
But Gov. Fordice blasted members of the legislature for overriding his 1997 veto of the Mississippi Adequate Education Act. The measure has allowed school districts to run up $505.3 million in bond indebtedness, Mr. Fordice complained, without holding referendums to secure taxpayers' approval.
The governor, a fiscal conservative who called for a 10 percent tax cut for Mississippians starting in 2000 or 2001, said the bonds probably built or renovated needed classrooms. But they also have financed "an extravaganza of gymnasiums, a soccer field, new tennis courts, new field houses, softball field equipment, and even a new wash bay for school buses," he said.
Mr. Fordice, the state's first Republican chief executive in this century, is barred by law from seeking a third term.
Montana Jobs Program Earns Nod in Racicot's Speech
Gov. Marc Racicot praised Montanans for working together to improve schools and stressed the importance of continuing to invest in the state's "world-class education system" during his Jan. 13 State of the State Address.
The Republican governor mentioned only one example, however, of what shape that investment might take: the Jobs for Montana's Graduates program. The program, which is affiliated with the national Jobs for America's Graduates program, has proved "very successful and cost-effective in combating and preventing the high school dropout problem," Mr. Racicot said.
The school-to-work program aims to help 9th through 12th graders focus on their career goals and stay in school. The governor said that he wants money for nearly tripling the number of participating schools, from 18 to 50.
Mr. Racicot devoted most of his address to proposals for economic development and tax reform.
--Mary Ann Zehr
New Mexico Private School Vouchers on Johnson Agenda Again
Saying once again that education is his top priority, Republican Gov. Gary E. Johnson called on the Democratic-controlled legislature last week to follow his blueprint for improving New Mexico's schools.
The governor, who won a second term in November, outlined eight education initiatives in his Jan. 19 address. Lawmakers in the past have blocked many of the governor's education proposals, including his repeated call for the state to enact a private-school-voucher program.
"Why not have New Mexico attract educational entrepreneurs from all over the country ready to prove that there is a better way," Mr. Johnson said. "We would lead the country with the simple passage of a voucher bill."
In addition to vouchers, the governor proposed establishing more charter schools. The state now has five of the taxpayer-funded schools, which receive flexibility in meeting certain regulations in exchange for increased accountability for student results.
Mr. Johnson also called for streamlining the rules concerning constructing and improving school buildings, granting the governor's office more responsibility for education, ensuring all children can read by 3rd grade, testing all children in all grades every year, improving school accountability and teaching standards, and considering alternative teacher certification.
Washington Locke Wants To Add 1,000 Elementary Teachers
Gov. Gary Locke has challenged Washington state lawmakers to become "the education legislature."
"Knowledge is the price of admission to the 21st century," Mr. Locke said in his Jan. 12 State of the State Address. "That's why my primary goal as governor is to make Washington a state of learning--a state where every citizen, of every age, is involved in education, a state where learning is truly a way of life."
The Democratic governor said the state had made significant progress over the past two years, with gains in student test scores and progress in implementing tough academic standards.
Mr. Locke said his budget initiatives would make education the highest priority. His spending for education would add 1,000 new teachers to elementary school classrooms.
And his budget plan would reform the state's Learning Assistance Program, which provides extra money for schools in which many students are failing. It also would set up a two-year scholarship for students from middle-class families that could be used at any public or private college or university in the state.
Wyoming Geringer Says State Must Address Quality
Standing on the threshold of a new century, Wyoming faces many challenges, including the need for schools with higher standards, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer told lawmakers in his State of the State Address.
Mr. Geringer, a Republican, touched on a number of education issues during the Jan. 13 speech, including accountability and school finance.
"Our schools are still structured on a model suited for a time that is past--not one prepared to meet the challenges of the future," Mr. Geringer said.
The state can help with new school buildings, new technology, new formulas for funding and professional development, the governor suggested.
Gov. Geringer expressed a need for innovative schools such as charter schools, for rewards for teacher effectiveness, and for the development of assessments designed to measure student competency. But he stopped short of detailing how his administration would work to address those needs.
The Wyoming Supreme Court's school finance ruling in 1995, which threw out a property- tax-based funding system, has produced mixed results, Mr. Geringer said. While "the decision has moved us toward clearer standards and put us on the road to meaningful reform," Wyoming now has the most complex system of school finance in the country, he asserted.
"It is time to get out of the courtroom and back into the classroom," the governor said. In the meantime, the legislature is expected to spend much of its 1999 session hammering out details of a new finance system, while some school districts pursue a finance lawsuit against the new system.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 18, Issue 20, Pages 12-13