School & District Management

‘Education Governor’ Is a Relative Term

March 21, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Executive Agendas:
A 50 State Roundup
About This Report
Executive Agendas
‘Education Governor’
Is a Relative Term
Goals and Outcomes: A Year in Education: 2005
(Requires Macromedia Flash)
PDF of entire report
(0.9MB)

Which of the 50 governors can claim to be a true “education governor”?

Just about all of them, since virtually every governor at some point singles out education as his or her No. 1 policy issue.

Several governors made just such statements in their 2005 State of the State addresses. Some of them moved beyond such general declarations to specific school proposals, a reminder that governors have the capacity to be the leading K-12 education policymakers in their states.

The truth is, defining what constitutes an education governor depends on how you slice the state leaders’ accomplishments.

The nation’s governors, a 50-state review by Education Week shows, fell into three general categories in 2005: those who proposed a lot of new ideas for K-12 education, those who focused on selling one or two big education proposals to legislatures or the voters, and those who concentrated on other policy areas.

A majority of governors proposed spending increases for K-12 schools in 2005 and again are pushing for such hikes in 2006, mostly because of escalating health-insurance costs for school districts and modest bump-ups in teacher salaries. Those costs alone can raise state education budgets by several percentage points.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who will wrap up his eight-year tenure next January, was among those who proposed several education policy changes, with victories on a few. He won more literacy training for teachers and money for the state’s first universal prekindergarten for 4-year-olds. But he failed to push through a referendum to scale back his state’s class-size limits and for reading coaches in all middle schools.

In 2006, he began pressing lawmakers to allow a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment preserving private school vouchers for thousands of students, after the state supreme court overturned one of the state’s voucher programs early this year.

(Requires Macromedia Flash Player.)

Some others who proposed lots of education ideas in 2005: Democrats Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and James E. Doyle of Wisconsin; and Republicans Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Matt Blunt of Missouri, Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island, and Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah.

With the exceptions of Gov. Blunt and Gov. Huntsman, the governors who tended not to see many of their long lists of ideas pass dealt with at least one legislative chamber controlled by the opposing political party.

For instance, Gov. Romney hasn’t exactly found a receptive audience for offering teacher performance-based pay or providing low-cost laptop computers to all middle schoolers in his state, where Democrats resistant to his ideas outnumbered Republicans in the legislature last year by more than 6-to-1.

Gov. Barbour’s modestly priced plan to improve education didn’t pass in 2005, though he has brought it back in 2006.

Some governors have found ways to compromise with lawmakers from opposing parties.

Gov. Vilsack persuaded Iowa lawmakers to approve several of his early-childhood programs. Gov. Pawlenty had luck with his incentive-pay plan for teachers.

After deadlocking on the voucher issue last year, Gov. Doyle, a Democrat, recently agreed to an expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program—but only if Wisconsin’s GOP lawmakers will provide more money to reduce class sizes in public schools and require testing and accreditation in private schools that accept the vouchers.

In Virginia, former Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat whose term ended in January and who is said to be considering a run for president, said in an interview that he worked with the Republican-controlled legislature by assuring lawmakers that record-high levels of new spending on schools would be accompanied by strong academic-accountability measures and programs such as financial audits to help districts run more efficiently.

“You can build broad, bipartisan coalitions in terms of support for education if you have significant accountability,” Mr. Warner said. “Don’t just stand there at the press conference, but come back and visit the schools and make sure the policy is being implemented, and follow up.”

From left, Democratic Govs. Michael F. Easley of North Carolina and Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida have put K-12 schools high on their agendas.

A number of other governors chose to focus on one or two specific proposals for K-12 education in 2005. Some of them counted the year as a success; others fared less well. Among those with focused school agendas were Republicans Frank Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Owens of Colorado, Bob Taft of Ohio, and Mark Sanford of South Carolina; and Democrats Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, Brian Schweitzer of Montana, and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee.

Alaska’s governor pushed through reforms to teacher benefits that pleased lawmakers but angered the state teachers’ union. Ohio’s governor successfully sold legislators on expanded school vouchers, while South Carolina’s governor lost his bid to create vouchers and corporate-tax-credit scholarships in his state.

Governors in Arizona, Delaware, and Tennessee pushed through legislation expanding prekindergarten for 4-year-olds. Others, including governors in Kansas and Montana, focused on court orders to retool their states’ school finance systems.

A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as ‘Education Governor’ Is a Relative Term

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Many Principals Say They Want to Quit. Will They?
More than a quarter of principals surveyed said they plan to leave the profession in two to three years.
3 min read
Image of someone balancing happy, sad, and neutral emojis.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Teaching Unvaccinated Students Separately? This District Will Be the First to Try It
An in-person program for unvaccinated kids honors families' choice, says the superintendent. Legal experts say it would violate state law.
6 min read
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters rally outside the garage doors of the Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD headquarters in Los Angeles on Sept. 9, 2021. The Los Angeles board of education voted to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person classes in the nation's second-largest school district.
Protesters rally against a COVID vaccine mandate for students outside the headquarters of Los Angeles Unified school district in September. Statewide, a COVID-19 vaccinate mandate for school attendance will begin to take effect for all of California's school districts in July.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
School & District Management Principals of Color Are Scarce. Here's What Districts Are Doing About It
More than three-quarters of principals are white, though more than half of students are nonwhite. Here are some approaches to change that.
17 min read
Leslie Alexander, right, talks with North Forsyth High School Assistant Principal of Instruction La Quisha Linder about what to expect while interviewing for the Winson-Salem/Forsyth County School District principal talent pool. Alexander is the Area Superintendent of Leadership Development and is working to develop a principal workforce that is representative of the district's demographics.
Leslie Alexander, right, talks with North Forsyth High School Assistant Principal of Instruction La Quisha Linder about what to expect while interviewing for the Winson-Salem/Forsyth County School District principal talent pool. Alexander is the Area Superintendent of Leadership Development and is working to develop a principal workforce that is representative of the district's demographics.
Alex Boerner for Education Week
School & District Management What the Research Says Q&A: How Can High Schools Continue to Improve Now?
The way to do it, says researcher Robert Balfanz, is to dig beneath the averages to find real solutions to schools' thorny problems.
6 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock