Education Takes Back Seat to Security at Governors’ Meeting

By Alan Richard & Joetta L. Sack — March 06, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Terrorist threats, health-care costs, and the environment dominated the National Governors Association’s meeting here last week. But the governors insisted that education hasn’t slipped as a top issue—especially during what is a gubernatorial-election year for 36 states.

“Education to a governor is like national defense to a president,” said Gov. Roy E. Barnes of Georgia, a Democrat, quoting a remark President Bush made while governor of Texas. “Education always has to be the number-one priority every year for a governor.”

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it was no surprise that the governors spent much of their four-day annual Washington meeting talking about the scarier issues of the day, including security against future attacks.

But even in a White House meeting with the president Feb. 25, talk turned to education.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges of South Carolina said the state executives talked with Mr. Bush about the new “No Child Left Behind” Act, signed into law in January, and how the measure will affect states.

The law makes dramatic and potentially costly demands of state education systems, including requirements for statewide assessments in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 by the 2005-06 school year, school district report cards, and stepped-up standards for teacher preparation and certification. (“Testing Systems in Most States Not ESEA-Ready,” Jan.9, 2002.)

President Bush assured the governors that the federal Department of Education will consider the states’ existing tests and accountability systems as it draws up the rules for how the new law, a revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, will affect the states, Mr. Hodges said.

As the leader of a state that has had a school accountability program in place since 1998, Mr. Hodges said he was reassured by the president’s remarks and sees the federal law in a positive light.

“It’s state-friendly,” he added of the new ESEA. “It’ll create a real partnership with the federal government.”

Dissenting View

But during the final session on Feb. 26, the governors homed in on pressing budget issues, especially federal programs that they view as unfunded mandates.

A persistent target of their complaints, for example, is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the nation’s main special education law, which is up for reauthorization this year.

Congress is authorized to contribute 40 percent of the national average per-pupil expenditure toward educating students with disabilities, a level of federal aid that is commonly referred to as “full funding.” But despite big increases in federal education aid in recent years, it hasn’t come close to that level.

This fiscal year, the federal government is chipping in 18 percent of the total national average per-pupil cost, or $8.3 billion.

President Bush wants to increase that allotment by $1 billion for fiscal 2003, but one member of Congress warned the NGA that “full funding” would likely elude lawmakers, in light of the federal budget crunch.

“My prediction is that we won’t get much above 18 percent this year,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., a member of the House subcommittee that handles education funding, told governors.

And though a cooperative tone ruled the sessions last week, one Democratic governor took President Bush to task for a planned reduction in the federal allotment for children’s vaccinations.

“I find it appalling that the president of the United States is cutting vaccine money so that we can give tax breaks to people like Ken Lay,” the former chairman of the bankrupt Enron Corp., said Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, who is retiring this year. A physician, Gov. Dean has focused on children’s health-care issues through much of his 11 years as governor, and reportedly may be testing the waters for a presidential bid.

Republican Gov. William Janklow of South Dakota accused the Vermont governor of “taking a partisan cheap shot” and breaking what had been a bipartisan work session. The Bush administration has explained the vaccination funding cuts by saying demand for the program was higher last year, and program spending simply reflects demand.

But Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he and other Democratic governors oppose Mr. Bush’s tax-cut plans and should be able to speak their views. “My concern is seeing proposals advanced with very little input from the governors,” he said.

And while several competing agendas were discussed here in Washington, the constituents back home likely will carry the most sway with their top executives.

For his part, Gov. Hodges of South Carolina hinted at the importance education likely will play in his fall re-election bid.

“It’s what I wake up every day thinking about and go to bed thinking about,” he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Education Takes Back Seat to Security at Governors’ Meeting


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.
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
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.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.

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

States Is Cursive Making a Comeback in California? Bill Could Revitalize Traditional Writing Skills
California elementary and middle school students could soon see a renewed commitment to teaching cursive writing.
Maya Miller, The Sacramento Bee
2 min read
Close crop of an elementary school, black girl in class focused on writing in a book.
States Florida's Edicts on Schools Keep Changing, and Local Districts Are Confused
District leaders say frustration is mounting as they try to enforce new education laws regarding gender issues, sex, library books, and race.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
7 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Miami.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Miami.
Marta Lavandier/AP
States What's With All the Education News Out of Florida? A Recap of Education Policy Decisions
Since 2022, the Florida department of education has generated a flurry of headlines around controversial policy decisions.
6 min read
Concept image of hand grabbing book from library shelf with an outline of the state of Florida overtop of image.
Conceptual: Liz Yap/Education Week; iStock/Getty/DigitalVision Vectors
States Massachusetts Joins Short List of States Providing Free School Meals to All
States are stepping in where federal COVID-relief aid dropped off.
4 min read
Students at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood eat lunch on Sept. 4, 2013.
Students at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood eat lunch on Sept. 4, 2013.
Steven Senne/AP