State of the States
State of the States
For complete coverage of this year's governors' speeches, check out State of the States 2011.
Gov. Jan Brewer (R) • Jan. 10
Gov. Brewer devoted her State of the State address to responding to the Jan. 8 shooting attack in Tucson on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which left six people dead.
The governor later released her education plan for pre-K through college in meetings with lawmakers and posted it on her website. The plan aims to improve data use and implement the common-core academic standards crafted by a state-led national initiative and accompanying assessments. It also seeks to develop high-quality teachers and support struggling schools.
The governor wants the state to create regional education centers that can provide school districts with professional development and technical assistance. She proposed creating a cadre of school turnaround experts through a leadership-training program. Her plan also says that the state needs to establish performance measures and benchmarks that match the student-achievement goals that have already been set by the state, and that those performance measures and benchmarks should be “public and transparent.”
Gov. Brewer’s budget for fiscal 2012 recommends a $51.9 million increase in education spending over the 2011 fiscal year to cover the costs of enrollment growth and inflation. —Mary Ann Zehr
Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) • Jan. 24
Education must be Hawaii’s top priority, Gov. Abercrombie told lawmakers in his address, who painted a grim picture of the state’s economy. Hawaii faces a $844 million deficit for the next biennium, he said. “The breakdown of our government is tearing our social fabric and undermining our economic recovery,” the governor said. “The truth is that the canoe, which is our beloved Hawaii, could capsize.”
Gov. Abercrombie said the state Department of Education was already “on the cusp of transformative change” thanks to the $75 million in federal funds Hawaii received through the Race to the Top competition. To move forward, he said, he now needs the authority to appoint the state Board of Education, and he urged the state’s Senate to move quickly in passing enabling legislation to do that. He also announced that a new position was being created in the governor’s office to oversee early education efforts and to establish a Department of Early Childhood. —Katie Ash
Gov. Richard D. “Rick” Snyder (R) • Jan. 19
Like many states, Michigan is facing a funding shortfall for fiscal 2012; analysts estimate it at $1.8 billion, which would represent a drop of close to 9 percent from the previous fiscal year. But the newly-elected governor’s first address to the state legislature was still long on optimism, even if it was short on specifics related to education.
Gov. Snyder said he would like to revamp the state’s education programs into a comprehensive system encompassing everything from prenatal health to lifelong learning. “It is time to start talking about P-20 instead of just K through 12,” he said, referring to preschool through college.
The governor said he will also submit a “special message” to lawmakers in April that will go into more detail on changes he would like to see in the state education system. The state budget will be presented in mid-February. —Christina A. Samuels
Gov. Jeremiah W. “Jay” Nixon (D) • Jan. 19
The governor is proposing sending $112 million extra to schools in the current year through federal economic-stimulus funds, but he wants districts to hold on to that money for a year. A $112 million cut is proposed in the fiscal 2012 budget to education, and the money provided now is supposed to help schools weather that future reduction.
Critics have said the governor’s plan is a shell game, and that cash-strapped districts can’t be expected to hold off on spending money this year. But the governor has said that’s the only way to maintain flat funding for schools.
In one of the few growth areas in his proposed budget, Gov. Nixon said he wants to expand a scholarship program that covers two years of tuition and fees at state community colleges or technical schools for qualified students. “Every good student in Missouri deserves the opportunity to go to college, whether they live in the urban core in St. Louis or Kansas City, or down a country road in the Bootheel,” the state’s largely rural southeast corner, Gov. Nixon said in his address.
The governor’s proposal would expand the scholarships, at a cost of about $1 million, to students whose families have a yearly income of $55,000. The expansion is expected to serve 700 additional students this fiscal year. The overall scholarship program cost about $25 million in the 2009-10 school year. —Christina A. Samuels
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) • Jan. 24
Gov. Sandoval’s education plan revealed during his State of the State speech proposes rolling back K-12 spending to 2007 levels, giving unproven educators the boot, and eliminating statutory mandates requiring smaller class sizes and other programs.
Gov. Sandoval named education among his many priorities in working to heal Nevada. The state has the highest unemployment, bankruptcy, and foreclosure rates in the nation. “Education reform is the linchpin to a solid return on our investment,” he said during his speech.
He wants to reduce K-12 funding by $270 per pupil and raid school reserves by $425 million to defray the costs of overall education spending. He has asked lawmakers to eliminate statutory requirements for class-size reduction, early-childhood education, kindergarten for children deemed at risk, and other programs, which cost a total of about $325 million. That money, he said, would instead be distributed in a block grant program to be used at the discretion of school districts. Overall, he is seeking a nearly 6 percent reduction in K-12 per-student spending and a drop of nearly 18 percent in higher education spending.
The governor blamed ineffective educators for the state’s low graduation rates, lingering achievement gap, and unsatisfactory test scores, and he chided those who blame such failures on inadequate funding. “It is unacceptable that children in classrooms literally across the hall from one another achieve at dramatically different levels because of the quality of their teacher,” he said.
He would like to end teacher tenure and social promotion of students, enhance private-school-voucher programs, and reward the best teachers and principals. The governor’s staff said the administration has yet to detail the proposed teacher-evaluation system.
The outlook is worse for the state’s community colleges and universities. Under Gov. Sandoval’s proposal, their funding would drop by 17.6 percent. In a bright spot, Mr. Sandoval wants to direct $10 million toward Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship Program. –Associated Press
Gov. Nikki R. Haley (R) • Jan. 19
In her speech, Gov. Haley announced plans to overhaul the state’s funding formula for school districts and privatize school busing contracts.
Earlier the same day, the state Senate’s Study Committee agreed to introduce a bill to change the taxpaying-ability index in the Education Finance Act, which sets the per-pupil amount on which state education support to districts is based. The bill would, for the first time, give weight to students in poverty or with limited English proficiency; those attending statewide online and charter schools; and students ages 17 to 21 who seek a diploma or a General Education Development, or GED, certificate. The bill would also would increase the support provided to gifted students and set a statewide base for teacher salaries.
Gov. Haley did not mention the proposal in her speech, but her support is likely to be critical to the ultimate success of any funding plan in the midst of a tight state budget.
Also in her address, the newly inaugurated governor said she would start looking for education savings by privatizing the states busing contract, a move she also said would "deliver our children a new fleet of buses" and "keep our school bus drivers employed while transferring our mechanics to the private sector." –Sarah D. Sparks
Vol. 30, Issue 19, Pages 16,18