State of the States
Despite warnings that his state has entered a period of economic slowdown, Gov. Frank O'Bannon of Indiana called for more spending to pay for several new education initiatives in his State of the State Address last week.Identifying school improvement as his top budgetary priority, the Democratic governor proposed devoting $50 million over the coming two fiscal years to create mathematics and reading programs in elementary and middle schools in the Hoosier State.
A second plan outlined by the newly re-elected governor would allot another $50 million for grants to school districts to pay for early-childhood- education efforts. Those would include full-day kindergarten, preschool programs to supplement the federally funded Head Start program, and transitional programs for children not yet ready for regular kindergarten.
A third initiative put forward in the Jan. 17 address would provide $30 million over the biennium to pay for a teacher-training program that was authorized as part of school accountability legislation passed in 1999, but was never backed up with funding.
Citing slowed growth in state tax revenue, the governor recommended that lawmakers tap $410 million from the state's lottery revenues to make up for a shortfall in the general fund. So far, the state has put aside lottery money in a special fund, called Build Indiana, to which legislators applied to pay for special projects in their communities, such as buying a new fire truck.
The governor's proposal to use lottery proceeds is already being opposed by legislators who would like to keep the Build Indiana fund intact, said Heather H. Macek, the governor's executive assistant for education.
Last week, Rep. Pat Bauer, the Republican who chairs the House of Representatives' ways and means committee, proposed a state budget that does not rely on lottery money and that would postpone the start of some of the governor's spending proposals from the first to the second year of the biennium.
Funding Sources Vary
Gov. O'Bannon deliberately earmarked the lottery money for aspects of his education agenda that he considered less essential, Ms. Macek said. Those include the $30 million for teacher training, $8 million over two years for a program to train master reading and math teachers under the math and reading initiative, and $1 million each year for awards to schools that show annual gains in both those subjects.
Programs the governor deemed more central, such as a $27 million intensive-reading program for 3rd graders and an $8 million program that would provide math instruction outside of the normal school day, would be paid for through the general fund.
The same day that Mr. O'Bannon delivered his address to the legislature, the Indiana Department of Education announced an overall decline in student scores on the state assessment, called Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, or ISTEP.
While a slightly higher percentage of 10th graders passed the exam that they must take in order to graduate—59 percent last year vs. 57 percent the previous year—the percentage of 6th graders and 3rd graders who showed they had mastered basic skills dropped from 1999 to 2000. Scores for 8th graders remained about the same.
Ms. Macek said the governor had not had time to study the numbers in any depth, and so did not mention them in his speech.
During the address, Mr. O'Bannon lauded the state's achievements in improving academic standards and creating "one of the most comprehensive assessment and accountability systems in the nation." But he cautioned that "we still have a long way to go" to improve schools.
—Mary Ann Zehr
Gov. Bill Owens used his third State of the State Address to propose merit-pay bonuses for teachers, smaller class sizes, and greater flexibility for principals in spending the increased education funding that will follow voter approval of a state constitutional amendment last November.
The speech that the first-term Republican delivered on Jan. 11 was his third such address, but it was his first before a legislature in which both houses were not controlled by his party. Democrats now hold a slim majority in the Senate, their first in 40 years.
Gov. Owens has sparred with Democratic leaders in recent weeks over plans for how to begin allocating the estimated $4.5 billion over 10 years expected because of the passage of Amendment 23, which requires the state to increase spending on education by the rate of inflation plus 1 percent each year for 10 years.
In his speech, he called on legislators "to pass responsible, targeted increases in education funding that will actually help the children."
"I support local control, and my proposals ... give the funds directly to school principals to decide how to use them," he said.
The governor also referred to his proposals to spend $375 million over 10 years to reduce class sizes in grades K-3 to a maximum of 17 students and to spend $51 million over four years on teacher-pay incentives.
Mr. Owens hailed last year's passage of a major school accountability measure that expanded student testing and created a program of school report cards. The report cards were to have included letter grades for each school, but the governor bowed last month to widespread complaints from educators and dropped the letter grades.
"While there are a few technical changes we need to make to last year's school reform package, the plan itself is not only sound, it is essential if we want to change a school system where too many of our children are left behind," Gov. Owens said.
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening declared in his State of the State Address last week that a "sound K-12 education is not sufficient" in a competitive, information-driven economy and that no child in the state should be barred from pursuing a higher education for financial reasons.
Undeterred by a slowing economy and encouraged by a state budget surplus that exceeds $370 million, the governor proposed a $21 billion budget that includes a hefty $1.3 billion higher education spending package. He said he hoped an influx of new money would facilitate students' access to college and create a world in which "all children will move into college just as they now move from junior high to high school."
In his Jan. 17 speech to the legislature, the Democratic governor outlined specific plans to increase the state's HOPE scholarship program, which gives grants to high school students to help pay college costs, and to raise funding to state universities. Mr. Glendening, who is midway into his second and final four-year term, also promised to continue his commitment to K-12 education. That includes what he called the "golden age of school construction," in which the state has so far authorized $1.6 billion in spending to build or modernize 13,000 classrooms.
Referring to opponents of the state's high-stakes exams as "special interests," Gov. Paul A. Cellucci used his State of the State Address to express continued support for the controversial testing system and announced a plan to speed up teacher preparation in the commonwealth.
"The most important resource a child has in the classroom is a well-qualified teacher," Gov. Cellucci said in his Jan. 17 speech. He then called on the state board of education to create regional centers to provide accelerated teacher-preparation courses as an alternative route to teacher certification.
The governor, a Republican, praised the success of the Massachusetts Institute for New Teachers program, in which college graduates without formal teacher education can quickly enter the classroom after attending an intensive summer training session. The governor has set a goal of certifying at least 10 percent of new teachers through such nontraditional paths.
Gov. Cellucci, who won election in 1998 after succeeding to the office from the lieutenant governorship, pledged to seek an additional $1 billion for public schools over the next five years.
He said that the education budget he intends to unveil this week would emphasize programs that help students pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, which have been strongly criticized by teachers' union leaders as well as groups of parents, students, and local educators.
Giving his administration high marks for what he described as its "unprecedented financial commitment to our public schools," the governor noted that the state is spending more than $3.9 billion a year on public education, or almost 21/2 times the spending eight years ago.
Gov. Mike Johanns of Nebraska is proposing more than $200 million in new education spending over the next two years, but has rejected an across-the-board salary-bonus plan for teachers.
Mr. Johanns' education agenda, outlined Jan. 11 during his third State of the State Address, would maintain Nebraska's tradition of locally controlled schools by attaching few strings to the proposed extra funding, which is designed to make up for tighter state caps on local property taxes.
Still, the Republican governor said the increase in state dollars means that "we expect a return on our investment."
Mr. Johanns wants $3 million more spent on the state education department's early-childhood programs, and urged legislators to give teachers more control over their classrooms.
The governor called a recommendation by a legislative teacher-salary task force for pay increases ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 an "unworkable solution." But he does want lawmakers to pay for a program the task force recommended that would provide loans to teacher education students who agree to work in Nebraska. He also agrees that teachers who earn national certification should receive pay bonuses.
Mr. Johanns encouraged the legislature to tackle the issue of teacher salaries by respecting local decisionmaking and making sure any resulting initiative fits within the state budget.
"The debate should not be about how much money we are spending on education or how much more we should spend," he said. "The debate must be about performance, accountability, and standards."
—Karla Scoon Reid
Calling the start of 2001 a "chance for a new beginning," Gov. Gary E. Johnson urged the New Mexico legislature last week to improve education by approving a voucher initiative and expanding access to charter schools.
The Republican governor's State of the State Address on Jan. 16 was dominated by proposals that have repeatedly put him at odds with the Democratic-controlled legislature since he took office in 1995, such as a voucher program and a cut in the personal-income tax.
He used his address to renew his request for such programs, including a $24 million plan that would allow poor students to use state-paid vouchers averaging $5,200 to defray the costs of private schooling. Such a program, he argued, would improve public schools by increasing competition. He also wants to cut income taxes by $75 million a year.
Mr. Johnson proposed spending $41 million on merit-based pay raises of 5 percent for teachers, and $115 million to improve school facilities. A $400 million-plus windfall generated by oil and gas revenues would make possible such expenditures, he said.
Leading Democrats and the legislature's standing budget-oversight panel have recommended that more of the windfall go to schools, including an 8 percent raises for teachers. They did not endorse a tax cut.
Gov. Johnson also proposed making the state schools superintendent a Cabinet-level gubernatorial appointee, rather than an appointee of the state board of education. Such a move, he said, would make the state education department more accountable for school improvement.
In addition, the governor proposed creating a charter school board to make it easier to open such schools.
South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges put his priorities in baseball terms during his Jan. 17 State of the State Address, calling on the legislature to approve his plan for spending proceeds from a new state lottery for education.
Mr. Hodges, who is starting his third year as governor, said voters hit "a home run for education" when they approved a state- run lottery in November.
Now the question is how profits from the lottery will be spent. Mr. Hodges wants most of the estimated $150 million in projected yearly profits to pay for $2,000 college scholarships for every student with a B average, to supplement existing state scholarships. Graduate-level courses for teachers also would be free under his plan. Remaining lottery money would be used for technology grants to public schools.
But the Democratic chief executive faces new political hurdles: Republicans now control both legislative houses, after a 50-50 tie in the Senate was broken this month when a longtime Democrat switched parties. Republican Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler and House Speaker David H. Wilkins publicly opposed the lottery.
In last week's address, Mr. Hodges called on GOP leaders to endorse his plan, which he called "the will of the people."
"The people of South Carolina have demanded an education lottery. The people of South Carolina deserve an education lottery. The people of South Carolina will get an education lottery," he said in his speech.
He also asked for $54 million toward full funding of the state's 1998 school accountability law. The money would offer assistance to schools with lower quality ratings, as determined under the law.
During his speech, Mr. Hodges recognized the state's teacher of the year, Christa Compton, and called for $2,000 teacher pay raises as a step toward reaching the national average within six years.
Vol. 20, Issue 19, Pages 14,16-17