Education

State of the States 2012: Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island

February 07, 2012 5 min read
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley stressed the link between education and job creation in his Feb. 1 State of the State speech in Annapolis.
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Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.

ILLINOIS

Gov. Pat Quinn (D) • Feb. 1

In a State of the State address focused largely on economic themes, Gov. Pat Quinn argued in favor of setting more ambitious targets for college completion, providing more student financial aid, and taking additional steps to renovate schools.

The Democrat, whose party controls both legislative chambers, told lawmakers that Illinois must raise the percentage of adults in the state who have a college degree or career certificate to 60 percent by 2025, from 43 percent now. To accomplish that goal, the state will need to boost funding for early-childhood education and provide more money for college scholarships, he said.

“The best economic tool a state can have is a strong, innovative education system,” Gov. Quinn said. “Jobs follow brainpower.

Mr. Quinn also alluded to the state’s passage last year of major education legislation—approved with bipartisan support and significant backing from teachers’ unions—that set new, tougher standards for teacher performance and advancement. He appeared to take a jab at Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin who signed legislation last year reducing teachers’ and other public employees’ collective bargaining rights. “Here in Illinois,” he said, “unlike other states in the Midwest, we believe in the right of working people to organize.”

—Sean Cavanagh

MAINE

Gov. Paul LePage (R) • Jan. 24

Gov. Paul LePage promised to introduce a “series of reforms” related to teacher effectiveness in the coming months, but otherwise only spoke in generalities about K-12 education in his second State of the State address.

Saying that the Maine state government “has a new attitude,” the first-term governor highlighted the legislature’s enactment last year of a measure that allows charter schools to operate in the state. Maine became the 41st state to adopt a charter school law. The governor also pledged to expand and improve Maine’s career and technical education programs; doing so would give students access to a wider array of educational opportunities, he said.

“As we put students first,” Gov. LePage said, “we must recognize that some students learn best working with their hands.” He told lawmakers that “some kids aren’t going to pick up geometry in a textbook,but will in the context of trades such as woodworking, welding, or machining.”

—Lesli A. Maxwell

MARYLAND

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) • Feb. 1

Facing a $1 billion deficit, Gov. Martin O’Malley called on the legislature to protect its investments in education and support his controversial call to shift a greater portion of payment for teacher pensions to local governments.

Much of the focus of Gov. O’Malley’s State of the State address was on job creation. But he bundled the issue with education, urging lawmakers to “make the right investments” to yield a solid future for the state’s citizens. If the legislators are tempted to cut education spending, he said, they should be aware that “everything has a cost.”

He proposes having the state’s 23 counties and the city of Baltimore pay half of the $955 million the state now contributes annually to teacher pensions. The state, in turn, would pick up a share of teachers’ Social Security costs, which it has not previously done. The net loss to local governments would be about $240 million a year.

To increase revenues to support key areas such as education, the governor proposes capping or phasing out some state income-tax deductions and exemptions for the highest-earning 20 percent of Marylanders, and raising taxes on cigar sales and some online purchases, as well as a tax that pays for sewage-treatment plants.

—Catherine Gewertz

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Gov. John Lynch (D) • Jan. 31

In his final State of the State address, Gov. John Lynch said that while public education spending has increased, he supports a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to give some districts more money than others. A state Supreme Court ruling said the state must spend the same base amount for every student in every town.

“I support a bipartisan amendment that would improve our ability to give every child the opportunity for a quality education. I remain committed to working with any legislator who shares the goal of an amendment that allows us to target state education aid and affirms the state’s responsibility to our schools,” said the governor, who said last fall he would not seek a fifth two-year term. “And I will oppose any amendment that would allow the state to abandon its responsibility for educating our children.”

College completion, increased student aid, and the need to renovate schools were among the themes in Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's annual address to lawmakers in Springfield, on Feb. 1. The governor also alluded to legislation passed last year, with bipartisan and union support, setting new, tougher standards for teacher evaluation and advancement.

He also supports legislation that would establish a building-aid budget, prioritize projects, and increase the match available to school districts with the greatest facility needs.

In his speech, the governor toutedthe state’s adoption of a compulsory school attendance age of 18, up from 16, in 2010. But he also noted that the state’s most recent budget reduced funding to public colleges and universities by half. “This is exactly the type of shortsighted reduction that undermines our economic strategy and jeopardizes our vitality for years to come,” Gov. Lynch said.

“That reduction hurt New Hampshire students and families struggling to pay tuition. Some students may not be able to afford college at all. There may be fewer spaces for New Hampshire students at our own colleges,” Mr. Lynch said. “These cuts hurt businesses trying to grow in New Hampshire and send the wrong signal to the companies we are trying to attract.

“An educated workforce is the core of our state’s successful economic-development strategy,” he said. “For our economic future, we must make it a priority to restore funding for higher education.”

—Nirvi Shah

RHODE ISLAND

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (I) • Jan. 31

Public K-12 schools would receive some $39 million in additional aid via a 2 percent hike on taxes at restaurant meals, under a proposal unveiled by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee in his annual budget address.

Acknowledging that the proposal would be controversial, Gov. Chafee said the extra funding would “go to the most important investments we can make: educating our young people and helping the property-taxpayer.”

The fiscal 2012 budget includes $1.15 billion in school aid. The proposed $39 million hike for fiscal 2013 would be put toward the state’s recently overhauled school funding formula and toward additional aid for needy school districts.

—Stephen Sawchuk

A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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