Governors Eye How to Balance Education Fiscal Priorities

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The best strategies to forge stronger connections between education and states' economies during lingering budget difficulties is "the question of the day for many states," Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in the first "State of the States" address on behalf of the National Governors Association here last week.

The address was designed to highlight states' "collective vision" and a review of current challenges states face, the NGA said.

Many students who dropped out of school, Mr. Markell, a Democrat, pointed out, had told him that "they believe that what they're learning is not connected to what they're going to do with the rest of their lives."

Both Gov. Markell and the NGA's vice chairwoman, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican elected in 2010, also told those at the Jan. 9 event that states continue to be concerned about the uncertain fiscal climate in Washington and that the possible automatic cuts in spending later this year totaling $1.2 trillion make their work for fiscal 2014 and beyond more difficult.

"It's hard for us as governors to be able to write a budget. ... It keeps having to be adjusted," Ms. Fallin said at the event held in Washington.

Mr. Markell said states' budgets are "slowly recovering" after state officials cut $337 billion collectively over the past five years.

Training Pipeline

On the issue of links between education and the workforce, Ms. Fallin said Oklahoma lawmakers are examining the extent to which degrees and certificates match what the actual needs in the labor market are, and also trying to ensure that a high school diploma signifies that graduates have certain useful skills in the economy. Mr. Markell asked that federal lawmakers restore the 15 percent of federal funding in the Workforce Investment Act that can be used at the discretion of states, for example, to set up a training "pipeline" between public schools and manufacturing jobsRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Mr. Markell stressed that the new Common Core State Standards (adopted by 46 states in English/language arts and by 45 states in math) would be "higher, cleaner, and fewer" and benefit students and teachers. The common core was developed by the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

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Biggest Challenge

Asked about the biggest challenge in putting the common core into effect, Mr. Markell said that implementing the new standards at the classroom level would take a lot of work. He also downplayed political and ideological opposition to the common core, saying that states have been free to adopt or not adopt it.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Markell also said governors whose states had won Race to the Top grants from the U.S. Department of Education were attempting to share what they had learned "so that we can strengthen all of our public schools."

In response to a question about gun control in the wake of the school shootings Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., both governors stressed the need for schools to review security plans and make sure first responders have relevant information. Ms. Fallin, however, said her state would continue to "respect our Second Amendment rights."

Vol. 32, Issue 17, Page 19

Published in Print: January 16, 2013, as Fiscal Realities Dog States
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