Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) • Feb. 5
In a speech devoted to praising the city’s accomplishments, Mayor Gray noted that more than 80,000 students are enrolled in school in the District of Columbia, nearly evenly divided between regular public and charter schools. Washington’s public school enrollment this year is the highest it’s been in 45 years, he said.
However, running “parallel public education networks” presents challenges, he said. The city and the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board plan to create a blueprint that will educate parents about school options, “ensure access to quality educational seats in every neighborhood,” and develop a transparent way to hold all schools accountable for student performance.
“We need an approach to public education in the District that clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of both our traditional and public charter schools,” Mr. Gray said.
–Christina A. Samuels
Gov. Steve Beshear (D) • Feb. 6
Gov. Beshear used his State of the State address to call for partially restoring the funding schools lost out on after six years of flatlined budgets during the economic downturn.
“Our schools aren’t treading water,” he told lawmakers. “They are slowly sinking.”
Though he praised legislators for protecting basic school funding from cuts during the recent recession, he said the state must now start spending more, even in the face of growing expenses (such as obligations to pensions) that will likely eat up the expected revenue growth. He also reiterated his call to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18.
Gov. Pat Quinn (D) • Feb. 6
Gov. Quinn tied the strength of the state’s education system to what he said in his State of the State speech were badly needed reforms to the state’s pension system.
In his prepared remarks, Mr. Quinn highlighted the state’s new accountability system for grading schools and also pointed out the $45 million the state had spent on early-childhood education centers in “high-need” communities around the state. But he also said that the state’s public-employee-pension crisis was hurting the quality of K-12 education in the state.
“The pension squeeze is draining our ability to teach our students. Our children are being shortchanged,” Mr. Quinn said.
The unfunded liability for the pension system, including the state’s Teacher Retirement System, is estimated to be $93 billion. Legislation in the state Senate aims to eliminate the liability in 30 years, although an analysis from the Teacher Retirement System noted that part of the bill would likely be challenged in courts as unconstitutional.
Gov. Paul LePage (R) • Feb. 5
Gov. LePage touted revisions to public-employee pensions and to charters and school choice he had proposed that were adopted by the legislature in the last year. He also called in his speech for a more detailed accountability system for schools and teachers.
Mr. LePage said he would direct the state education commissioner to develop an A-F ranking system for schools. He also plans to hold an education conference in March, featuring national experts to discuss initiatives that are working in other states.
The governor also detailed plans to expand school choice programs in the state, pointing to specialized independent schools such as Maine’s 10 so-called “town academies,” which are private, nonprofit schools that serve as public high schools. “Giving students options is more than charter schools,” he said. “We must fund schools that best fit the student’s needs.”
–Sarah D. Sparks
Gov. Jay Nixon (D) • Jan. 28
Saying that he wants to ensure “every young child comes to school ready to learn,” Gov. Nixon told state lawmakers that he is proposing to add $17 million to the state’s fiscal 2014 budget for early-childhood education. About $10 million of that increase would go to the Missouri Preschool Program, increasing its funding to $18.3 million.
An additional $3.5 million would go to Early Head Start programs, bringing total state funding to $6.2 million.
The governor has also proposed a $100 million increase in funding for elementary and secondary schools. Most of that amount, $66 million, would be added to the funding formula for schools, bringing the state-aid proposal to about $3 billion. Mr. Nixon said the money would be used to train teachers, modernize equipment, and lengthen the school year, which he said is the nation’s fourth-shortest.
–Christina A. Samuels
Gov. Steve Bullock (D) • Jan. 30
Montana’s governor outlined a series of education proposals in his address to lawmakers, all designed to increase to 60 percent over the next decade the proportion of adults in the state with a postsecondary degree or professional certificate.
Gov. Bullock’s 2014-15 budget proposal includes initiatives to offer more dual-enrollment programs at the state’s two-year colleges and freeze tuition in its university system.
He also included funding in the proposal for the state’s Jobs for Montana’s Graduates, which helps guide at-risk teenagers to jobs, military service, or higher education. And he called on the legislature to add 100 new early-childhood programs, which would help 1,000 new pupils, and to help school districts modernize their technology.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) • Feb. 5
Gov. Corbett gave K-12 education a high profile in his third annual budget address, calling for the state to privatize the state-run liquor business to provide $1 billion over four years in revenue for public schools.
He boasted that his proposed $28.4 billion spending plan for 2013-14 would put “a record amount” of state funding into the basic education formula: $5.5 billion, 1.7 percent higher than the current year’s budget. His plan also seeks to protect current levels of aid for early-childhood programs and would add $6.4 million to expand full-day, part-day, and summer programming for preschoolers.
The governor also proposed creating a $1 billion “Passport for Learning” block-grant program, which districts could use to bolster programs to improve kindergarten, K-3 reading and math, or school safety. The money could also be used for programs that let children customize the pace of their learning, or for science and math programs in grades 6-12.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) • Feb. 13
Education initiatives featured heavily in Gov. Tomblin’s State of the State address.
Mr. Tomblin cited the state’s 49th-place ranking for student achievement in Education Week‘s annual Quality Counts report and its poor showing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. He cited the state’s 78 percent graduation rate and high percentage of older teenagers who are neither working nor in school. “That is not acceptable,” Mr. Tomblin said.
He will introduce legislation requiring every county to offer full-day preschool for 4-year-olds within the next three years. New elementary teachers would receive special training in reading instruction, he said. He also plans to work with a private foundation to discern the components and costs of a quality birth-through-age 5 education program and proposed adding $17 million to offset cuts in federal child-care subsidies to keep children in early-childhood programs.
He proposed that workforce education begin in middle school and that more vocational training be made available to students not planning to attend college.
In the area of teaching, he pledged to reward teachers who reapply for national-board certification when it expires. And he said he will introduce legislation to keep West Virginia students in school longer: They averaged 170 days of school during 2011-12. He said the bill “will free our local boards of education ... to design a calendar meeting the needs of adequate instructional time.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as State of the States