Published Online: January 25, 2011
Published in Print: January 26, 2011, as State of the States

State of the States

State of the States

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is congratulated after her address on the opening day of the legislative session in Santa Fe.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is congratulated after her address on the opening day of the legislative session in Santa Fe.
—Jane Phillips/The New Mexican/AP
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For complete coverage of this year's governors' speeches, check out State of the States 2011.

ALASKA

Gov. Sean Parnell (R) • Jan. 19

In his annual address to lawmakers, Gov. Parnell lauded the state’s growing economic prosperity, including the addition of private-sector jobs over the last year, at a time when many states are struggling to regain economic stability.

Gov. Parnell praised the first year of the Alaska Performance Scholarship, which he said would offer 9,000 high school seniors the opportunity to earn scholarships this year and could help 30,000 more over the next three years. He urged lawmakers to pass a sustainable funding mechanism to continue the program, which allows high school students to earn scholarships to higher education or vocational training if they opt for a pre-set, more rigorous curriculum. “Even now in its early stages, we are seeing encouraging signs that the power of high expectations is taking hold all across Alaska,” he said.—Katie Ash


ARKANSAS

Gov. MIKE BEEBE (D) • Jan. 11

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe's image is shown on a television monitor in the state Capitol in Little Rock during his State of the State speech.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe's image is shown on a television monitor in the state Capitol in Little Rock during his State of the State speech.
—Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Gov. Beebe said in his address to legislators that the state’s anticipated small increase in revenue would be used for public education funding, and that his budget proposes a 2 percent per-pupil increase in state foundation funding, to $6,143 per pupil. The proposed K-12 budget for fiscal 2012 is $2.7 billion, up 3.7 percent from fiscal 2011.

In his State of the State address Jan. 11, Gov. Beebe also touted the state’s sixth-place ranking nationally in Quality Counts 2011, published by Education Week, up from 10th place last year.

Gov. Beebe said the state had “a much bigger hill to climb” in addressing its higher education challenges. The state must double its number of college graduates by 2025, he said.

He said he requested a 1 percent increase in higher education funding to help the state’s colleges with increased enrollment. He also said the state would have to address the financial barriers that block some students from completing degree requirements.—Michelle D. Anderson


DELAWARE

Gov. Jack A. Markell (D) • Jan. 20

In his third State of the State address, Gov. Markell made it clear that education is a major priority, even as he warned that statewide cutbacks would have to continue in response to lean budget times.Much of the address focused on highlighting the state’s educational accomplishments in 2010, including adoption of a new set of common standards, and winning $100 million in the federal Race to the Top competition. With that money, Delaware plans to offer incentives to lure good teachers into struggling schools, create time for teachers to collaborate in improving student achievement, and improve testing to better reflect student growth in all subject areas and produce more useful information for teachers.

Gov. Markell noted that the state set up a “partnership zone” to help four low-performing schools, adopted a requirement that all students complete a world language course, and took steps to bolster education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As part of his plan to streamline state government, Gov. Markell said the state would have to “take a hard look” at the cost of its health insurance and pension plans for public employees, but he provided no details.—Catherine Gewertz


MISSISSIPPI

Gov. Haley Barbour (R) • Jan. 11

In his final State of the State speech, delivered Jan. 11, Gov. Barbour pledged to widen access to quality education by broadening the state’s charter school law and urging schools to make dual enrollment in high school and college courses easier. In particular, Gov. Barbour, who is term-limited, said changes in dual enrollment would allow students to learn more and would allow their parents to save money on college credits earned.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour waves to friends after delivering his eighth and final State of the State address at the Capitol in Jackson.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour waves to friends after delivering his eighth and final State of the State address at the Capitol in Jackson.
—Danny Johnston/AP

The governor—who leaves office after the state’s gubernatorial election later this year—said that if the legislature adopted his budget recommendation for fiscal 2012, the state would have about $200 million left in reserves for fiscal 2013, and school districts would have more than $450 million in their reserve funds.

Mississippi schools, overall, have reported a decline in dropout rates, and the state’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are higher than the national average, Gov. Barbour said. “We must continue to focus on improving the quality of teachers coming out of our colleges of education, while simultaneously using technology more in teaching our kids,” he said.—Michelle D. Anderson


NEBRASKA

Gov. Dave Heineman (R) • Jan. 13

Gov. Heineman pledged to support the development of a “virtual high school” in his annual speech before lawmakers, in which he also promised to close the state’s projected budget shortfall while opposing tax increases.

The governor, who won re-election in November, told legislators that he wants to commit $8.5 million in state lottery funds to support the creation of a virtual high school, which he said would increase the diversity and availability of courses in Nebraska schools, particularly in rural areas. Such a program also would allow students to complete their work in the evenings and on weekends—effectively expanding the school day and school year, the governor added. The state proposed a similar idea in its application for grant money in the federal Race to the Top application, though it was not selected as a winner.

Nebraska faces a projected budget shortfall of $1 billion over fiscal years 2012 and 2013 combined. Gov. Heineman’s budget proposal would preserve funding for K-12 education at $810 million in 2012 and increase the amount to $860 million in 2013, while cutting state funding in several other areas. —Sean Cavanagh


NEW MEXICO

Gov. Susana Martinez (R) • Jan. 18

Gov. Martinez, in her first State of the State address, said that while she will trim “education bureaucracy” in the state, she won’t reduce classroom spending. The governor, elected to her first term in November, painted a bleak picture of the financial health of the state, which faces a $450 million shortfall in its fiscal 2011 budget of $5.6 billion, but she is seeking only a 1.5 percent cut from the administration of education in her proposed budget for fiscal 2012. Besides cutting school administration, the governor intends to cut the budget for the state’s education department by 20 percent, according to a spokesman for the governor. Ms. Martinez said in her speech that she would preserve funds that reach classrooms.

Education is feeling the pinch as state budgets tighten nationwide. Read what the governors plan for education funding and reform in 2011 in our State of the State and budget address roundups.

“The truth is there is waste, and it must be eliminated,” Gov. Martinez said, citing the costs of lobbyists in school districts and lawyers in the state’s education agency as examples of waste. She contended that only 61 cents of every dollar for education in the state is spent in the classroom. “Nothing will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education,” she said.

She promised to end social promotion, which she defined as moving children from one grade to the next regardless of whether they have shown proficiency in basic skills. She said that the state will intervene more quickly in schools that are failing than has been previously the case. She promised, as well, to establish a system that evaluates teachers and rewards those who are most effective, saying improving the quality of teachers is key to improving the quality of education in the state. —Mary Ann Zehr


OREGON

Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) • Jan. 10

In his inaugural speech, Gov. Kitzhaber outlined the importance of spending more money on education to improve the economic future for Oregonians, despite a $3.5 billion projected budget deficit for the next biennium.

Gov. Kitzhaber declared that by 2020, children in Oregon should be prepared to learn before they enter kindergarten, expect to receive the resources they need to learn from teachers who have the time and support required to teach effectively, and graduate on the road to entering college without a need for remedial study. Graduation rates should increase, and at least 80 percent of all graduating students should complete at least two years of postsecondary education or training, he said.

“If together we commit ourselves to building that future,” he said, “we can, over time, reverse our current trend of disinvestment in education.” —Katie Ash


SOUTH DAKOTA

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) • Jan. 19

In his first state budget address, newly inaugurated Gov. Daugaard announced a proposed budget that would cut funding to all state-level agencies not affected by legal mandates by at least 10 percent, including a $41 million cut to K-12 education. The plan is aimed at eliminating a structural state deficit of $127 million in fiscal 2012, which would bring the general state budget down to $1.1 billion.

Total K-12 general funding would drop to $359 million, according to figures available online. That would reduce the state’s per-pupil contribution by about $480, to $4,324.

Gov. Daugaard stressed that, if other revenues that contribute to education funding are factored in—such as property taxes, federal special education funding, and proceeds from sources like weigh-station taxes—district education budgets decreases would be held to an average of 5.4 percent. He noted that any local tax increases were independent of state funding decisions.

“If school boards can convince property-holders to opt out” of their current tax levels for a higher tax rate, Gov. Daugaard said, “that’s a local decision.”

In his State of the State address eight days earlier, the governor said he would propose bills aiming to repeal the 100-student minimum-enrollment figure needed for a district to receive state financial aid, and to remove a cap on the funds districts were allowed to hold in reserve.

He also praised the states above-average high school graduation and postsecondary-attendance rates and pushed for improved education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. —Ian Quillen

Vol. 30, Issue 18, Page 18

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