State of the State Speeches
Judging by the high-flying rhetoric of the nation's governors, teaching and education will be dominant issues in state legislatures this spring. Every year about this time, the chief executives of the 50 states announce their legislative agenda in a "State of the State" address, delivered before lawmakers with pomp, ceremony, and special guests. This year, many governors bemoaned the teacher shortage and presented plans to make the profession more attractive, including upping their state's ante with higher salaries and signing bonuses. Others promised to improve the quality of their state's teaching corps, proposing initiatives ranging from mentoring programs for new teachers to testing of teacher competence.
But the award for the most enticing teacher incentive should probably go to Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull, a Republican. Talking about her state's efforts to repair school buildings, Hull promised, "the days of . . . backed up plumbing will soon be over."
Here, highlights from key speeches:
Governor: Gray Davis, first-term Democrat.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 48.
Educators Saluted: Faye Sarfan, principal of Mayo Elementary in Compton, who has promised to dye her hair green if the school's students read 60,000 books by April; University of California President Richard Atkinson, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed, and Gretchen Laue, executive director of the California Reading and Literacy Project, for their work creating state-sponsored reading institutes for teachers.
Proposals: Spend $20.5 million to ensure that at least four core Advanced Placement classes are available to every high school student. Invest in classroom technology and preschool.
Teacher Talk: Offer cash incentives for teachers who agree to work in struggling schools-including forgivable college loans, fellowships for top scholars, house loans, and a $30,000 award for earning national board certification. Combat teacher shortage by establishing five teacher recruitment centers and allowing retired teachers to return to the profession and keep their pensions. Expand the state reading and literacy project to provide professional development to 70,000 teachers.
Sound Bite: "After parents, teachers are California's greatest force for social good."
Governor: Bob Taft, second-term Republican.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 36.
Educators Saluted: The staffs of Pike and Roosevelt Elementary schools, where the number of students passing the state reading test has increased dramatically over the past three years; Grace Koo and Mary Pauline Blazer, two OhioReads volunteer tutors.
Proposals: Spend $4.5 billion—on top of $1 billion set aside last year—on renovating schools. Create a commission on academic standards and measuring student performance. Expand summer reading programs. Make computer proficiency a high school graduation requirement.
Teacher Talk: None.
Sound Bite: "We must never retreat from high standards, rigorous assessment, and accountability for results."
Governor: George Pataki, second-term Republican.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 19.
Educators Saluted: Gregory Hodge, principal of the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem.
Proposals: Approve more charter schools. Encourage schools to develop character education courses.
Teacher Talk: Attract new teachers to public education—reimburse tuition for university students who commit to teaching in the neediest schools, place college juniors as mentors and aides in summer schools, allow noncertified citizens with "life skills" to teach courses, encourage retired public employees to seek second careers as teachers by allowing them to earn their pension as well as a full salary, provide money to teachers training for recertification.
Sound Bite: "We need to do everything we can to open the doors of teaching to every truly qualified New Yorker. . . . Right now, Colin Powell can't teach in the New York schools that he grew up in. Billy Joel is not 'qualified' to teach piano to kids on Long Island. Eileen Collins can pilot the space shuttle, but she can't teach science in Elmira, her hometown."
Governor: John Engler, third-term Republican.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 43.
Educators Saluted: Dr. David Spencer, president of the Michigan Virtual University, which will launch the Michigan Virtual High School and the Michigan Advanced Placement Academy on the Internet this year.
Proposals: Boost state education spending, setting a minimum level of aid to districts at $6,500 per student—roughly $600 more than before. Urge districts to reduce bureaucracy. Abolish the cap on public charter schools. Introduce annual state tests in every grade. Place AmeriCorps reading tutors in schools. Empower principals to hire and fire staff, revamp curriculum, and offer employee incentives. With the Eli Broad Foundation, create a national training center for principals.
Teacher Talk: Train all Michigan teachers in computer skills over the next two years and award proficient teachers with computers and Internet access. Give cash awards to all employees at high-performing schools.
Sound Bite: "Principals are spending more time filling out forms than working with teachers to improve student learning. We need to reverse that trend and restore principals to their rightful place as education leaders."
Governor: Thomas Vilsack, first-term Democrat.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 22.
Educators Saluted: Christie Vilsack, his wife, for her work advocating public libraries; Brian and Diane Bergstrom, young parents who moved to Iowa from Chicago for the state's "quality education"; Nancy Gardner, principal of West Liberty Elementary School, and her teachers, for their half-Spanish, half-English curriculum.
Proposals: Improve early childhood education. Provide direct assistance for school repair and maintenance. Support Internet schools.
Teacher Talk: Enact several teacher salary initiatives: study how to make Iowa teacher salaries more competitive, offer incentives to encourage districts to test teacher compensation systems, give tax credits to districts, enable teachers to take early retirement. Increase funding for teacher induction programs and peer mentoring.
Sound Bite: "Learning in this century should take place any time, anywhere, for anybody."
Governor: Jim Hodges, first-term Democrat.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 53.
Educators Saluted: The state's 34 teachers who have earned national certification; Jeff Davis, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who runs a program that recruits African American men to teaching; Joanne Skillman, assistant principal who runs East Aiken Elementary's character education program; Rachel Hodges, his wife, whose "Reading With Rachel" program promotes literacy.
Proposals: Provide money to develop a character education program at every school. Expand First Steps, his administration's preschool readiness program. Introduce a state lottery to pay for classroom technology, college scholarships for students, and professional development for teachers.
Teacher Talk: Loan teachers cash to cover the cost of earning national certification and forgive the loan for teachers who pass the test. Award $25,000 to the state teacher of the year and $1,000 to each district's teacher of the year. Spend $1 million on teacher recruitment.
Sound Bite: "It's time to require students to respect their teachers. In every school, our students must use words that show that respect. I'm talking about ma'am, sir, Mr., and Mrs."
Governor: Bill Owens, first-term Republican.
Percentage Of Speech Devoted To K-12 Education: 47.
Educators Saluted: Gary Trujillo, principal of Bessemer Elementary in Pueblo, where students' scores on the state reading test have improved dramatically over the past three years.
Proposals: Help schools, law enforcement agencies, and other government agencies share information about disruptive children. Fund start-up costs of charter schools for high-risk and expelled students. Increase state testing of reading, writing, and math. Introduce report cards that grade schools on student performance and safety. Subsidize the transportation costs of students willing to travel to better-performing public schools. Invite for-profit and nonprofit groups to turn the state's worst schools into independent charter schools.
Teacher Talk: Give teachers "enhanced powers" to remove troublemakers from their classes. Provide $4 million in grants for professional development. Abolish tenure for future teachers.
Sound Bite: "We are in danger of having two groups of children in Colorado—one that can read and one that can't; one that dreams and one that doesn't."
Vol. 11, Issue 6, Pages 26-27