Gov. Hunt Emphasizes School Accountability, Early-Childhood Plans
Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina unveiled an ambitious plan last week for ensuring that his education reform initiatives extend beyond his final two years in office.
In his State of the State Address on Feb. 1, Mr. Hunt, a Democrat who has pushed for higher teacher pay, more programs for disadvantaged preschoolers, and school-by-school accountability measures, called on legislators to help make the state's schools the best in the nation by 2010.
"I challenge North Carolinians to raise our sights and raise our schools to an even higher level," Mr. Hunt said. "[That] means being first in educating and equipping them to compete with anybody anywhere. It means being first in outworking and out-thinking our competitors across the nation and around the world."
To do so, he proposed a 10-point plan, much of it expanding on themes and initiatives he has promoted during his years as governor. The governor's education cabinet will be asked to draft a set of "First in America School Goals" by next fall. The goals would outline ways to prepare young children for school, develop rigorous academic standards, improve teacher pay and training, hold educators and students more accountable for student achievement, and involve more parents and businesses in education.
Mr. Hunt pointed to North Carolina's improvement on several national measures of student achievement, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as proof that the state's 3-year-old school improvement program--which includes rewards and sanctions for teachers and administrators based on progress at each of the state's 2,000 schools--is on the right track.
The governor is in his fourth term, having returned to the post in 1993 after serving two earlier terms, from 1977 to 1985.
Georgia Barnes Outlines Proposal For More Scholarships
During his 24 years as a state legislator, Roy E. Barnes--now Georgia's new governor--took part in passing significant education bills, including the Quality Basic Education Act, universal kindergarten, and a lottery-financed prekindergarten program.
"Georgia is a great state today because of all these changes," Mr. Barnes, a Democrat, said during his Jan. 27 State of the State speech.
Two weeks earlier, in his budget address, Mr. Barnes laid out his education agenda, which builds on several programs instituted during his predecessor's administration. "The one thing the people of Georgia won't have to miss about Governor [Zell] Miller is his HOPE scholarships," he said. "Mark my words. HOPE is here to stay. In fact, HOPE is bigger than ever."
His budget includes money for another 8,000 students--for a total of about 160,000 students--to receive the highly popular scholarships. And he wants to spend $6.7 million to accommodate another 1,500 4-year-olds in the state's prekindergarten program. About 61,000 youngsters are in the program now.
Gov. Barnes also plans to increase spending for two initiatives aimed at reducing school violence and juvenile crime: alternative schools and after-school programs. Under his budget, money for the alternative schools program would double, from $12.9 million to $24.6 million.
Maryland Glendening Advocates Teacher-Hiring Initiatives
Heading into his second term as governor with a hefty budget surplus fueled by a strong state economy, Parris N. Glendening urged lawmakers to direct the bulk of new spending in Maryland to education.
In his fifth State of the State Address, the Democratic governor submitted to lawmakers a package of education measures aimed at recruiting badly needed certified teachers, reducing class sizes, and modernizing classrooms. The most expensive piece of his education spending plan is for building and renovating schools.
"As we find ourselves at the dawn of a new century, let us also stand at the beginning of the golden age of school construction," the governor said in his Jan. 21 speech to the legislature. Mr. Glendening proposed that the state devote $1 billion to building or modernizing schools and classrooms across the state in the next four years.
Gov. Glendening also said he was committed to hiring 1,100 additional teachers to reduce class sizes in 1st and 2nd grade reading and 7th grade mathematics classes. He also proposed that some new funding be withheld from schools in which more than 2 percent of the teachers are uncertified.
Missouri Carnahan Wants Funds For Preschool Program
Missouri's system of education is on track, providing high-quality early-childhood education programs and up-to-date school technology, Gov. Mel Carnahan said in his State of the State Address on Jan. 20.
To continue such initiatives, Mr. Carnahan requested that $55.6 million be spent to implement the Missouri Preschool Program, which is designed to reach youngsters in districts throughout the state. "Our early-childhood initiative provides thousands of Missouri children with access to affordable, quality child care so they can receive a strong start in life," he said.
The Democratic governor, who is midway through his second term, also recommended mandating summer school and tutorial programs for students who are academically deficient--a step intended to end social promotion of students who aren't ready for the next grade. And, he asked that parents be required to sign a pledge to provide a healthy environment at home.
This year, the governor said, the state will finish wiring all Missouri schools for Internet service. Mr. Carnahan also asked the legislature to allocate $10.5 million for college scholarships.
Nebraska More Tax Relief Needed, New Governor Contends
In his first State of the State Address, Gov. Mike O. Johanns of Nebraska praised the legislature for recently enacting changes to the state's school aid formula, but he said there was still more to accomplish.
"Against criticism at home, you have challenged school boards and administrators to tighten their belts, set priorities, work together, and, in some instances, caused communities to make tough, yet inevitable, decisions regarding their schools, that they have put off for decades," he told the lawmakers. He noted that in a decade the state has gone from paying about a quarter of school costs to the current half.
But Mr. Johanns, a Republican and the former mayor of Lincoln, lamented that the shift of responsibility had not succeeded in sufficiently lowering local property taxes. He blamed higher valuations and "the bureaucracy of local government" for eating up the dollars.
To bring more tax relief, the governor proposed legislation that would provide property-tax refunds to taxpayers through a special state trust fund. The money for the fund would come from excess state tax receipts and savings from "government efficiency," the governor said.
Oklahoma Keating Links Higher Ed., Economic Impact in State
Oklahoma's economy will suffer if the state does not produce more workers with college degrees, Gov. Frank Keating warned last week.
The Republican proposed in his State of the State Address on Feb. 1 to avert that outcome by boosting the budget for higher education and by improving K-12 education. His fiscal 2000 budget released the same day proposed a $40 million increase for colleges and universities to $690 million, while adding $20 million to the budget for K-12 schools for a total of $1.7 billion.
Education was thus spared the across-the-board cuts that will be applied to every other state agency.
But he warned that the schools would have to show better results. The large number of Oklahoma students who enter college needing remediation before taking college-level work "is unacceptable," Mr. Keating, who just started his second term, said.
His list of objectives for schools included reducing the number of dropouts, putting more student assessments in place, providing "real" school choice and charter school reform, and ending social promotion of students not academically ready for the next grade.
Rhode Island Teacher Training, Reading Top Almond's Budget Plan
At a time of state budget surpluses and job growth, Gov. Lincoln C. Almond wants Rhode Island to seize the opportunity to further improve its schools.
Though he won't present a detailed budget proposal until later this month, his Jan. 27 State of the State Address outlined several expenditures the governor wants to make for teacher training, reading initiatives, and school construction.
The Republican governor, who is beginning his second term, recommended that the House and the Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats, allot $500,000 for teacher professional development in reading instruction. He also pledged that reading would be the focus of a new Teacher Preparation Task Force that will propose changes in how the state's colleges train educators. And new teachers also should be given new entrance exams to ensure they have the needed basic skills, he added. "We must have the best and the brightest teaching our students," he said.
Overall, Mr. Almond proposed a relatively modest increase of $21 million over the current $480 million in state aid for education. But, he said, most of that increase should go to urban schools, and $2 million ought to be set aside for increasing the number of all-day kindergarten programs in the state.
Virginia Gilmore Lays Out Plans To Help Meet New Goals
Calling raising academic standards one of his administration's top priorities, Gov. James S. Gilmore III pledged a series of budget initiatives to help educators meet Virginia's tough new student-achievement goals.
After nearly every school flunked the first round of standards-based assessments last fall, the Republican governor pledged in his second State of the Commonwealth Address to commit more resources to reducing class sizes and improving professional-development opportunities for teachers. In the Jan. 13 speech to lawmakers, the governor proposed hiring 4,000 new teachers to address a serious teacher shortage in the state.
And as the state's first school performance report cards were dispatched to parents last month showing the disappointing passing rate on the new statewide tests, the governor pledged to earmark more than $3 million to open five additional "best-practice centers" to help districts analyze test data and share curriculum ideas.
To rebuild and refurbish old school buildings, Mr. Gilmore also called on state leaders to direct $110 million in the next fiscal year to meeting local school construction needs.
To help finance those plans, Mr. Gilmore proposed that lawmakers dedicate all future state lottery profits--an estimated $245 million in new money over the next two years--to basic aid to public schools.
Wisconsin Thompson Highlights Need for Accountability
Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson focused his State of the State Address on education, recommending everything from tougher standards for students and teachers to more money for early-childhood education and vocational programs.
Mr. Thompson emphasized accountability in the Jan. 27 speech. He proposed that students pass a graduation test and that the state education department be required to post report cards on every Wisconsin school on its World Wide Web site. He also recommended that teachers be required to pass national competency exams in their subject areas. Those who failed the tests would have to complete remedial work at the expense of the university they attended. Some $2 million would be allocated to teacher peer review and mentoring programs.
Mr. Thompson's plans for young children include a $350,000 grant program for elementary schools to teach foreign languages through computer-assisted distance learning. The Early Childhood Excellence Initiative calls for building five high-tech learning centers for at-risk children age 4 or younger.
Vol. 18, Issue 22, Pages 14-15