State of the States
State of the States: Calif., Ga., Hawaii, Ind., Mass., Miss., N.M., R.I., Wis.
Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) • Jan. 24
Fresh off a victory at the polls last year that secured more tax money for schools, Gov. Brown used his State of the State speech as a platform to propose a new K-12 funding formula that would provide more state aid to schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged students.
Mr. Brown said his new proposal, called the Local Control Funding Formula, "recognizes the fact that a child in a family making $20,000 a year or speaking a language different from English or living in a foster home requires more help. Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice."
Analysis of previous versions of the proposal from Mr. Brown has shown that K-12 districts consisting of upwards of 80 percent disadvantaged students could receive an additional $3,520 per child.
He also called for a philosophical approach to education that he called "subsidiarity," or the idea that the state government should only do what local or intermediate authorities cannot.
"Subsidiarity is offended when distant authorities prescribe in minute detail what is taught, how it is taught, and how it is to be measured," the governor said in prepared remarks. "I would prefer to trust our teachers who are in the classroom each day, doing the real work—lighting fires in young minds."
To that end, Mr. Brown called for cutting "categorical" state education funding programs and distributing more money to local school boards, in order to let them decide the best way to distribute it. (Such categorical funding programs include class-size reduction for grades K-3, English-language acquisition, and charter school block grants.)
At the beginning of his speech, he also celebrated the voters' passage in 2012 of Proposition 30, which raises income taxes on high earners and earmarks about $4.8 billion of the additional revenue for public schools. The passage of Proposition 30 was built into Mr. Brown's budget, and if voters had rejected it, a corresponding midyear budget cut was to be made.
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) • Jan. 17
Gov. Deal used his State of the State address to ask the legislature to support a boost in K-12 aid to keep up with enrollment growth, while also calling for broader revisions to the state's school funding formula, which he described as antiquated.
The first-term Republican's budget for the 2014 fiscal year would increase overall funding for education to
$7.4 billion, with $147 million of that increase devoted to covering the cost of educating more students. Gov. Deal alsocalled for adding 10 days to the state's prekindergarten program, to restore earlier cuts.
Mr. Deal also said the school funding system, the Quality Basic Education program, "does not meet the needs of a 21st-century classroom," and he asked lawmakers to help him revamp it. He believes the aid formula confuses the public and needs to be revised so that it's easier for Georgians to understand how money is being spent, and so that schools have incentives to spend money wisely, said a spokeswoman for the governor's office, Stephanie Mayfield.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) • Jan. 22
Gov. Abercrombie used his annual speech to lawmakers to advocate greater investment in early-childhood education, technological infrastructure for schools, and digital devices and curricula for every student.
He congratulated Hawaii's students and teachers on their academic performance last year, which increased in every subject and grade level on state tests. He also outlined an initiative that would allow the state education department to lease underutilized land to earn money to upgrade existing schools and build new ones.
Gov. Mike Pence (R) • Jan. 22
In his first State of the State address, Gov. Pence called for expanding the state's voucher program by lifting income limits for some families and removing the requirement that students attend a year of public school before receiving a voucher. He also wants to expand tuition tax deductions to help Hoosiers pay for school tuition, private or otherwise.
Now, only low- to middle-income families are eligible for vouchers that can be used to pay for private school tuition at any school statewide; Mr. Pence wants to lift those restrictions for foster, adopted, and special-needs students and those in military families as a "good start."
"This fall, more than 9,000 students attended a school of their choice," the governor said, referring to the voucher program established in 2011. "We've made progress, ... but we can do more."
Mr. Pence also pledged to create "regional work councils" that would pair businesses and educators to develop curricula to introduce students to more relevant, high-paying jobs that are in demand.
He said he would call for school funding increases in each of the next two years, with the second year tied to school performance. His budget would also set aside an additional $6 million in "teacher excellence grants" to pay the highest-performing teachers.
In a nod to newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, Mr. Pence said he would work with her to "cut the red tape that teachers face in the classroom, and let them teach."
Gov. Deval Patrick (D) • Jan. 16
In his seventh State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Patrick proposed raising taxes to pay for increased spending on education and transportation. His package would increase the state income tax by 1 percentage point, to 6.25 percent; at the same time, he would lower the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent. Those and other proposed changes to the tax code are estimated to produce $1.9 billion in new annual revenue.
"There is no good time to raise taxes," said Gov. Patrick, who has made clear he would not seek election to a third term in 2014. "I would not ask if I did not believe in my heart that investing meaningfully today in education and transportation will significantly improve our economic tomorrows."
A summary of the governor's budget plan says it would provide more than $550 million in "new targeted investments" for education. They would include $131 million to ensure "universal access to high-quality early education" for children from birth to age 5; $226 million in additional local aid to school districts; and $152 million to make college more affordable and accessible, particularly for lower- and middle-income students. In addition, the proposed plan seeks $5 million for an expanded-learning time initiative for middle school students in "high need" schools.
—Erik W. Robelen
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) • Jan. 22
Gov. Bryant outlined a sweeping wish list of education proposals, calling on Mississippi's lawmakers to end social promotion in some grades, boost entrance requirements for beginning teachers, develop a merit-pay plan for teachers, and establish a new school choice program.
Mr. Bryant, speaking in his State of the State address, said he also wants to see the state direct $15 million to bolster literacy efforts. The money would cover the cost of training teachers on best practices in reading instruction and provide teachers to help intervene with struggling students.
In the area of school choice, the governor wants to see the state enact charter school legislation—it currently is one of a handful of states that don't allow those independent public schools. And he wants to create privately funded Opportunity Scholarships, which would allow very poor children in low-performing schools to transfer to a private school. "For far too long, a family's street address has locked them behind a wall into one school," Gov. Bryant told the lawmakers. "What if that school were failing? What options do parents have? As of today, the answer is none. Tonight, I'm calling on you to change that."
Gov. Susana Martinez (R) • Jan. 15
Pointing to the state's high rate of high school dropouts, Gov. Martinez in her State of the State address urged replication of one county's successful early-college high school program across other parts of New Mexico where graduation rates lag. The first-term governor also proposed a new, statewide dropout-warning system to be used to identify students most at risk of not finishing school successfully.
All told, the governor proposed more than $100 million in new spending for public schools. In fiscal 2012, the state's budget for public schools was roughly $2.5 billion. Ms. Martinez said she would seek legislative approval for $2.5 millionto expand the availability of Advanced Placement courses, train more teachers to teach them, and provide waivers from ap test fees to students from low-income families.
Gov. Martinez proposed $4.7 million to turn around struggling schools and more than $11 million on efforts to recruit and retain teachers and offer rewards to those who demonstrate success with students. She also asked lawmakers to invest more in an initiative to recruit math and science teachers for public schools, especially in low-income communities. But she did not call for raising teachers' salaries.
The governor urged lawmakers to approve legislation that would require schools to end social promotion and retain 3rd graders who have not reached reading proficiency, a proposal that failed to win approval last year. She also called for expanding an existing program that hires reading coaches for schools.
—Lesli A. Maxwell
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (I) • Jan. 17
College costs and vocational training were the centerpieces of Gov. Chafee's remarks on education. His 2013-14 budget proposal includes $30.3 million in additional state education aid, raising the total education budget to $1.22 billion. The new money includes $6 million for higher education and puts $14 million into repairs at the state's vocational education facilities.
The increase for higher education would be put toward preventing tuition increases at the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the University of Rhode Island. But Mr. Chafee said the plan would depend on the leadership of those institutions matching the funding with $6 million of their own.
"We must also do all we can to ensure that motivated and hardworking Rhode Islanders can attain a quality college education," Gov. Chafee said. "And we must ensure that they can do so without taking on mounting levels of debt."
Gov. Scott Walker (R) • Jan. 15
In a speech mostly devoid of the controversial policy proposals that have dominated much of his tenure, Gov. Walker called for providing financial incentives for high-performing and academically improving schools.
The governor said his financial-incentive plan would be released with his budget proposal in February. He also said the state should take unspecified steps to help academically struggling schools "fundamentally change their structure."
"As a parent, it really is a moral imperative," said Mr. Walker, who has a son in a public high school. "As a governor, it is also an economic imperative. If we want to help employers grow, ... we must show them there is a steady supply of graduates with the skills needed to fill the jobs not only of today but of tomorrow."
The governor led a successful effort two years ago to restrict collective bargaining for school employees and most other state workers, after a partisan battle that roiled the state Capitol and drew national attention. In his speech, he told lawmakers those moves are collectively saving school districts millions of dollars.
Vol. 32, Issue 19, Page 20