States State of the States

State of the States: Alaska, Ark., Colo., Del., Idaho, Iowa, Kan., Mich., Nev., N.D., Ore., S.C., S.D., Wash.

January 22, 2013 10 min read
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad delivers his annual Condition of the State address to a joint session of the state legislature in Des Moines. The governor is seeking to create a $160 million teacher-quality initiative, aimed at recruiting top educators and keeping them in the state, as well as rewarding effective teachers.
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Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.

ALASKA

Gov. Sean Parnell (R) • Jan. 16

In his annual address to lawmakers, Gov. Parnell set a new goal of raising the high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, up from the current 70 percent. He said meeting that goal will require improved reading instruction in grades K-3 and an “unwavering” focus on the lowest-performing schools.

Innovation is also needed, he said, including further work on the state’s 1-to-1 digital learning initiative which aims to provide a laptop for every student and teacher.

Gov. Parnell also praised lawmakers for fully funding the Alaska Performance Scholarships, which have helped fund higher education for more than 4,600 students in the state.
—Katie Ash

ARKANSAS

Gov. Mike Beebe (D) • Jan. 15

Gov. Beebe listed improving education and economic development as his top priorities in his State of the State address, but outlined no major new K-12 initiatives in what is likely to be a challenging budget year. He noted that the budget he is proposing will help address a current structural shortfall in education, but that otherwise he is proposing “few increases” in spending.

Mr. Beebe also noted that Arkansas ranked fifth for the second year in a row among all states in Education Week‘s annual Quality Counts, which he cited as a key achievement. But he added that the state still ranks too low in an important indicator—its students’ raw test scores as compared with their peers across the country.

“We’ve made progress, but not nearly enough,” Mr. Beebe said. “If we can bring that up, we can go from fifth ultimately to first, and we can tell the governor of Maryland he can get out of the way,” he added, referring to the top-ranked state.
–Alyson Klein

COLORADO

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) • Jan. 10

Invoking the shooting rampage last summer in a Colorado movie theater, as well as the slayings at Columbine High School in the state’s Jefferson County district in 1999, Gov. Hickenlooper called on lawmakers to enact universal background checks for gun sales.

“After Columbine, Colorado voters insisted that gun-show sales be regulated, and launched an aggressive effort to prevent school bullying,” he said in his third State of the State address. “We have shown that in Colorado that we can learn from tragedy and make changes.”

The governor also pointed to recent measures in his state to gauge teacher effectiveness and to intervene with struggling readers by the end of 3rd grade. And he highlighted the $30 million federal Race to the Top grant Colorado was awarded in December to support early-childhood education and enhance early literacy.

“Early-childhood education is one of the best investments we can make,” he said, and urged the legislature to support further steps. “With your support, we will serve up to 6,500 new kindergartners and preschoolers.”
—Erik W. Robelen

DELAWARE

Gov. Jack A. Markell (D) • Jan. 17

Gov. Markell called for higher pay for new teachers and teachers in high-needs schools in his address, saying, “Teaching is a demanding profession, and our admissions requirements for teacher-preparation programs should reflect this.”

Mr. Markell also called for a common application to the state’s public schools of choice, describing the current system as “burdensome and complicated.”

He highlighted the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and a world-language immersion program that he said will serve 10,000 Delaware students by the end of the decade.
–Jaclyn Zubrzycki

IDAHO

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) • Jan. 7

After a year in which voters rejected the technology-centered Students Come First initiative, Gov. Otter opened his State of the State speech by saying that his “highest priority remains public schools,” but that he will be taking a more cautious approach to improving them in 2013.

“I’m convinced that acting too quickly or without due deliberation will generate needless distraction from our goals of improving efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability in our education system,” he said.

Mr. Otter said he has asked the state board of education to pull together “a broad cross-section of stakeholders” to identify the school reforms that are the most popular—or at least the most palatable—among the public.
—Sarah D. Sparks

IOWA

Gov. Terry E. Brandstad (R) • Jan. 15

Gov. Brandstad wants the Hawkeye State to create a $160 million teacher-quality initiative that would help recruit top educators, keep them in the state, and reward effective teachers.

The plan, announced on Jan. 14, and reiterated in Mr. Brandstad’s State of State address the following day, would raise the starting salary for teachers from $28,000 to $35,000. It would also give novice teachers a reduced courseload so that they have more time for professional development. The existing Teach Iowa program would be expanded to provide a total of up to $20,000 in tuition reimbursement to top students who agree to work in the state for five years. Veteran teachers would be given more opportunity for career advancement, including the chance to serve as mentors, as co-teachers, and in other leadership roles.

Under a separate proposal, Iowa students could choose to take a test before high school graduation to determine their readiness for college or the workforce. Those who met the bar would get a seal affixed to their diplomas.
—Alyson Klein

KANSAS

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) • Jan. 15

In what he said would be a strategy to combat childhood poverty in his state, Gov. Brownback proposed a new reading initiative. The Kansas Reads to Succeed Initiative would require 3rd graders to demonstrate their reading abilities before being promoted to 4th grade, provide incentives to elementary schools that are the best at increasing 4th grade reading scores, and allocate $12 million to support innovative programs to help struggling readers. Mr. Brownback noted that 29 percent of Kansas 4th graders cannot read at a basic level.

“Passing children up the grade ladder when we know they can’t read is irresponsible—and cruel,” the governor said. “We will do better.”
—Nirvi Shah

MICHIGAN

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) • Jan. 16

About 29,000 low-income 4-year-olds are eligible for preschool in Michigan but can’t get into a program because of limited funding. Gov. Snyder urged the state legislature during his address to find money to increase the number of state-funded preschool spots.

Michigan’s Great Start School Readiness Program is a 30-week classroom program that enrolls about 23,000 4-year-olds, at a cost to the state of about $108 million in the 2011-12 school year. Far more children are eligible, he said.

The governor also praised the state’s Educational Achievement Authority, which started its first year taking over 15 persistently failing schools in Detroit that serve about 8,800 students. Schools under the EAA umbrella have a longer school day and year, plus a “student-centered learning model” where students are moved along based on mastery.
–Christina A. Samuels

NEVADA

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) • Jan. 16

Longer kindergarten classes, school choice, teacher-quality initiatives, and $14 million in new programming for English-language learners are all major parts of Gov. Sandoval’s two-year budget for fiscal 2014 and 2015, which includes $135 million overall in new education spending.

The governor, who outlined the details in his State of the State address , called on the legislature to “take the necessary steps” to ensure that all children can read by 3rd grade. His budget request allots $20 million in new funding for early education and expanding all-day kindergarten in at-risk schools. The total budget request for the state’s education department is $1.9 billion for fiscal 2014.

Gov. Sandoval also proposed a new investment in the Teach For America program, which recruits college graduates to teach in challenging schools, and in the Jobs for America program, which pairs specialists with students at risk of dropping out in high school. And he wants to put more money into a data system to link student performance to teachers, which he said would aid the state’s transition to a better teacher-evaluation system.

In what’s likely to be his most controversial proposal, Gov. Sandoval said he would introduce a bill giving businesses tax credits for contributing to a scholarship fund to help students in low-performing schools attend schools of their choice. “Many students attend schools that are not meeting their needs,” the governor said. “We owe them and their parents additional choice as well as individualized instruction.”
–Stephen Sawchuk

NORTH DAKOTA

Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) • Jan. 8

Changes in North Dakota’s formula for funding K-12 schools were the focus of the education portion of Gov. Dalrymple’s State of the State speech, which touted the state’s economic prosperity. Over the past five years, the state has shifted to a more “integrated” school funding formula that is less reliant on local property taxes and more equitable, the governor said. “This formula will continue the strong financial commitment to educating each North Dakota student regardless of where they live or how property-poor their school district happens to be,” he said.

Mr. Dalrymple highlighted the state’s high 8th grade math and science scores and its high school graduation rate. He also bid farewell to Wayne Sanstead, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, who plans to retire at the end of this year and who has held the job for 28 years.
–Jaclyn Zubrzycki

OREGON

Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) • Jan. 14

To invest adequately in Oregon’s public education system, the legislature must undertake a comprehensive reform of the state’s public-finance system, Gov. Kitzhaber said in his annual address to lawmakers.

Such changes are needed to find the money to meet the governor’s 40-40-20 education goal, which aims to have 40 percent of the state’s adults attain a four-year college degree, 40 percent attain a two-year degree or its equivalent, and 20 percent of the population graduate with a high school diploma.
–Katie Ash

SOUTH CAROLINA

Gov. Nikki Haley (R) • Jan. 16

Gov. Haley’s third State of the State speech included hints—but few details—about big changes to education in the state, including making the now-elected superintendent of schools a governor-appointed position and overhauling the way the state funds schools.

“Having a well-educated workforce is a real factor in attracting more businesses and jobs to our state,” she said.

Gov. Haley did not propose a new school funding system, but said she wanted to “start a conversation” on the issue with legislative education committee leaders. “We do have to figure out a way to bring up the schools in the poorer parts of our state; history shows we cannot count on their own depressed local tax bases or restrictive federal dollars to do it,” she said.

Ms. Haley also called for the legislature to support a public vote on a constitutional amendment to allow governors to appoint the state superintendent of education, who is now elected.
–Sarah D. Sparks

SOUTH DAKOTA

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) • Jan. 8

South Dakota students will have a better chance at avoiding remedial classes in college and, ideally, a lower chance of dropping out due to a new effort of the state’s department of education and board of regents, said Gov. Daugaard in his State of the State address.

Students identified as at-risk by their act scores will be targeted with remediation while they are still in high school so they can avoid such courses in college, the governor said.
–Jaclyn Zubrzycki

WASHINGTON

Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) • Jan. 15

Gov. Gregoire used her final State of the State speech to reflect on her eight years in the governorship.

During her tenure, the state created a department of early learning and won a $60 million Early Learning Race to the Top grant from the federal government, she noted. Legislators also put more money into science, technology, engineering, and math subjects, and the state is in the process of implementing a new teacher-evaluation system, among other initiatives.
–Katie Ash

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A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2013 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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