States State of the States

State of the States: Ariz., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Ind., N.J., Ore., S.D., Va., Vt., Wash., W.Va., Wyo.

January 20, 2015 11 min read
As a state trooper stands guard nearby, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address in the State House, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Trenton, N.J. Christie aimed at national issues as well as those in his state, and he noted lessons learned while traveling the country last year to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidates.
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Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.

ARIZONA

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) • Jan. 12

In his first address to state lawmakers, newly elected Gov. Ducey announced a proposal to get more money into classrooms as part of his plan to shift spending from support services to actual teaching. According to a February 2014 state auditor general’s report, Arizona schools spent 54 percent of their available operating cash on classroom instruction in the 2013 budget year, roughly 7 percentage points below the national average. Gov. Ducey also said he wants a requirement for high school students to master U.S. civics to be the first bill passed this session by the legislature, fulfilling a campaign promise that students have a basic understanding of U.S. history and the duties of citizenship.

He also discussed his plans to change the management of consistently underperforming schools and ease wait lists at high-performing charter schools by establishing the Arizona Public School Achievement District, which would allow the state to turn over vacant space at district schools to charters.

The governor also called for settlement of a school funding lawsuit resulting from an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that found that former Gov. Jan Brewer ignored a mandate to adjust state aid for schools each year to account for inflation. The judge handling the case ruled that current state aid needs to be immediately increased by more than $300 million, and is now weighing a request by schools for more than $1 billion in aid not given in prior years.

–Corey Mitchell

GEORGIA

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) • Jan. 14

Gov. Deal, beginning his second term in office, called for lawmakers to approve a state constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of an “opportunity school district,” to permit the state to take control of academically struggling schools.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is applauded upon stepping up to the podium to deliver his State of the State address at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Atlanta.

The governor envisions modeling the plan after similar programs around the country, such as the Recovery School District in Louisiana, a state-run program that oversees schools in New Orleans and other communities. Mr. Deal also told the gop-dominated legislature that he will establish an education commission to study a variety of issues, including how to improve teacher recruitment and retention and early-childhood education, and changing the state’s school-funding formula, which he described as “older than every student in our classrooms and some of their parents.”

The governor urged lawmakers to support steps to fix struggling schools that go beyond simply pouring more money into education, noting that last year’s budget and this year’s proposed spending plan would significantly help schools. “More money without fundamental changes,” he said, “will only make state and local taxpayers greater enablers of chronic failure.”

–Sean Cavanagh

IDAHO

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) • Jan. 13

“Idaho learns” was a refrain in Gov. Otter’s speech, which kicked off with a call to increase school funding by 7.4 percent for 2015-16 over the current $1.37 billion education budget. Idaho ranks among the states with the lowest educational funding levels. At $6,659 per pupil in 2011-12, Idaho surpassed only Utah, and fell far below the national average of $10,608, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report. In his speech, the governor cited education as his top budget priority.

An infusion of $101 million would add $20 million in discretionary operating funds for schools in fiscal 2016, provide more teacher training and professional development, as well as a “significant infusion” for teacher compensation under the new tiered-licensure system and career ladder proposed by the state board of education. In Gov. Otter’s proposed budget, the minimum teacher salary would increase from $31,750 to $32,800 per year. The governor also proposed funding more career and college counseling for students.

He also committed to funding the beleaguered Idaho Education Network broadband system, which has had a number of legal and funding issues in recent years. In November, a judge voided the state’s contract, and the governor vowed to rebid the contracts involved.

–Michele Molnar

IOWA

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) • Jan. 12

For the second year in a row, Gov. Branstad used his annual address to call on lawmakers to pass a proposal that seeks to curb bullying.

The new measure, the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015, is similar to legislation he outlined last year that would have required parents to be notified if their child is involved in a bullying incident. This year’s proposal includes an exception from the requirement if school officials think that parent notification could lead to abuse or neglect. It would launch a bullying-prevention program to help student mentors play a role in anti-bullying initiatives in their schools. And it would provide investigator training for schools.

Gov. Branstad told lawmakers that “every child in Iowa deserves ... a classroom and community that allows them to grow and flourish, not live in fear of when and where the bully will strike again.”

–Alyson Klein

INDIANA

Gov. Michael R. Pence (R) • Jan. 13.

In a speech that was heavy on K-12 education policy but hit familiar notes, Gov. Pence called for an expansion of school choice programs, more funding for charter schools, an increase in teacher-performance bonuses, funding to expand career and technical education, and the relocation of 100,000 students from underperforming schools into high-quality schools by 2020.

Gov. Pence’s budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, delivered to the state legislature early this month, proposes a funding hike of nearly $200 million for K-12 education over the next two years, including a 2 percent increase this year and 1 percent next year. Funding for K-12 education in fiscal year 2015 was $6.7 billion. The budget also contains $41 million for charter schools to raise their per-pupil spending by $1,500, and $4 million to expand school voucher programs.

The governor called for expanding opportunities for parents to choose where their children attend school by lifting the cap on the state’s Choice Scholarship Program. Building on the $30 million provided to teachers in performance bonuses last year, he proposed adding another $63 million in performance pay to teachers who are rated effective or highly effective under the state’s teacher-evaluation system and teach in schools that hit specific testing targets or demonstrate 5 percent or more growth in graduation rates. Gov. Pence also called for $20 million a year in funding to support career and vocational education. He wants to quintuple by 2020 the number of students who graduate career-ready with industry-recognized technical certification.

–Denisa Superville

NEW JERSEY

Gov. Chris Christie (R) • Jan. 13

In his fifth State of the State Address, Gov. Christie trumpeted the advance of his education agenda and promised to pursue more of the policies that have made him the enemy of teachers’ unions in the Garden State.

The governor highlighted two key victories from 2012: the adoption of performance-based pay for teachers in Newark, and the legislature’s embrace of streamlined tenure rules, facilitating quicker removal of underperforming teachers from the classroom. He also touted expansion of charter schools across the state. But he pressed lawmakers to do more, including approving the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would allow low-income children to attend schools of their choice with pooled funds contributed by corporations.

Gov. Christie, a possible contender for the Republican nomination for president next year, portrayed his time in office as an engine for steady improvement, citing lower unemployment, slowed-down property tax growth, and a string of balanced budgets.

–Catherine Gewertz

OREGON

Gov. John A. Kitzhaber (D) • Jan. 12

In his fourth inaugural address, Gov. Kitzhaber only briefly mentioned education in a speech focused on how the state’s economic recovery has not been equitably distributed.

“In short, our workers are more productive today than ever—but they are not sharing equitably in the wealth that they are helping to create—and that trend is accelerating,” he said. The governor praised, in general terms, the business community’s commitment to taking an active role in education.

In his proposed two-year budget for 2015-17, Mr. Kitzhaber focuses on early-childhood education, allocating $305 million for literacy programs and full-day kindergarten.

–Arianna Prothero

SOUTH DAKOTA

Gov. Dennis M. Daugaard (R) • Jan. 13

In his fifth annual address, recently re-elected Gov. Daugaard focused heavily on South Dakota’s crumbling infrastructure but announced no new major education-related initiatives.

He did highlight existing efforts to use state funds to expand career and technical education in K-12 schools and to create low-cost, dual-credit programs that allow students to earn university or technical-institute credit while still in high school. A new program, funded through a private donation and matching state funds, will offer full scholarships to students entering high-need workforce programs at South Dakota’s technical institutes, as long as they commit to work in-state for three years.

–Ben Herold

VIRGINIA

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) • Jan. 14

In his first State of the Commonwealth Address, Gov. McAuliffe gave education a high profile, calling it pivotal to his push to build the state’s economic muscle.

The Democratic executive, who took office last January, invited lawmakers to help him protect K-12 and higher education from fiscal cutbacks.

“Public education is the backbone of a healthy economy, so let us pledge tonight to avoid acrimony on this topic and agree that we will not cut a single dollar from schools during this legislative session,” Gov. McAuliffe said, to sustained applause. The governor pledged to further expand preschool programs, tighten safety rules for day-care centers, and improve workforce training to better respond to the needs of the job market.

–Catherine Gewertz

VERMONT

Gov. Peter E. Shumlin (D) • Jan. 15

In a state where declining student enrollment and rising property taxes have fueled debate over education spending, Gov. Shumlin used his annual address to lawmakers to propose measures on school mergers and to reduce local spending.

The governor said his education proposals were intended to serve dual purposes: cutting costs and improving quality. The state faces a projected $94 million budget gap, and among Mr. Shumlin’s cost-cutting measures is a plan to consolidate some libraries and the Community High School of Vermont, which is run through the state’s department of corrections.

Gov. Shumlin’s recommendations—some of which are expected to face stiff pushback—include: providing up to $3 million in construction aid for school districts that pursue consolidation; banning teacher strikes and school board-imposed union contracts; and ensuring that high-level spending decisions, such as the hiring of a principal and provision of health-care contracts, are made at the supervisory level. Mr. Shumlin also wants principals to be able to hire all of their building staff.

–Denisa Superville

WASHINGTON

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) • Jan. 13

In his address to legislators, Gov. Inslee vowed to invest more in education, tying it to broader issues of equality and the economy. “The future demands a higher level of achievement,” he said. “Investing in stem [science, technology, engineering and math] and workforce training pays off attracting the most innovative companies on the planet.”

Mr. Inslee highlighted a $2.3 billion K-12 budget proposal that would in part fund high-quality preschool for 6,000 low-income children, all-day kindergarten, and class-size reductions for grades K-3. The proposal would also give teachers a cost-of-living allowance for the first time in six years and seek to make college more affordable by increasing financial aid and freezing tuition.

Mr. Inslee noted that as the economy continues to rebound from the recession, the trend of cutting education spending must be reversed. Washington’s state supreme court has held thelegislature in contempt over the way it funds public schools. If lawmakers don’t comply with the court’s orders by the end of the session, the legislature could face sanctions.

–Arianna Prothero

WEST VIRGINIA

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) • Jan. 14

Gov. Tomblin highlighted two new education initiatives: funding to establish a science, technology, engineering, and math, or stem, network, and proposed legislation to help skilled West Virginians enter the teaching field. Tomblin’s proposed budget includes a network that would review current stem-related education activities and refine and expand local programs.

About streamlining the process of becoming a teacher, Mr. Tomblin said: “We must give local school systems better flexibility to train and hire subject-matter experts to fill long-term vacancies in critical subject areas.” But the governor’s proposed budget does not include an across-the-board increase for teachers.

Finally, Mr. Tomblin announced proposed legislation to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system, which would put “truancy diversion specialists” in all 55 counties, and increase the use of community-based services to “help our families mend, and get our kids back on track.”

–Michele Molnar

WYOMING

Gov. Matt Mead (R) • Jan. 14

Gov. Mead did not propose many new K-12 education initiatives in his budget, but promised to “keep working on education at every level,” including early-childhood education, K-12 schools, community colleges, and the University of Wyoming.

Regarding K-12, he referenced the state’s ongoing and sometimes tumultuous efforts to refine its state accountability system. The state is one of only a handful that have not been granted a waiver from requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We started work on education accountability in 2011, and it continues. I note this session you’ll consider a bill to improve the state assessment system,” he told the legislature during the speech. That bill also would address teacher and principal evaluation, and require districts to administer adaptive tests aligned to the state curriculum standards.

–Stephen Sawchuk

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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