States State of the States

State of the States Coverage: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York

January 27, 2015 7 min read
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Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.


Gov. Bill Walker (I) • Jan. 21

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Walker began his discussion on education by reminding Alaskans that the state is facing one of its biggest budget deficits. Although he vowed to protect education funding as best he could, Mr. Walker also underscored that falling oil prices will force the energy-dependent state to tighten its belt.

Beyond that, the governor did not outline any concrete education initiatives, but discussed the need to increase career and technical education opportunities and to train young people for the jobs of tomorrow: “We do that by being creative, [by] parents stepping up and teachers and administrators thinking outside the box,” he said.

–Arianna Prothero


Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) • Jan. 15

In his address, Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a recommendation for providing $200 million in one-time funding for local districts to use at their own discretion.

To support its education system, “Colorado must also become the best state in the country to recruit, retain, and grow great teachers,” he said, pointing to licensure reforms, career ladders, and a “fair evaluation system” as ways to achieve that goal.

Gov. Hickenlooper said he looked forward to the recommendations of a task force assembled to propose changes to the state’s student assessment systems. “Easing the testing demands on 12th graders in social studies and science, and streamlining tests in early years and finding flexibility with approaches to social studies might be among the right answers,” he said.

–Evie Blad


Gov. Jack Markell (D) • Jan. 22

In his seventh State of the State address, Gov. Markell proposed a lofty education goal he is calling the Delaware Promise: “By 2025, 65 percent of our workforce will earn a college degree or professional certificate. Everyone will earn at least a high school diploma.”

He also announced a partnership among employers, universities, and K-12 schools that will provide specialized career training for high school students. The Pathways to Prosperity initiative will allow students to earn college credits and certificates from industry partners, including those in information technology, hospitality, financial services, and health care.

In addition, the governor said he will create a school funding task force to make recommendations “that would spur more innovation in our schools and address inequities for our neediest students.”

Gov. Markell also pointed to a new teacher-compensation plan he helped push forward, saying: “We’ll raise starting salaries and allow educators to earn more by taking on leadership responsibilities while remaining in the classroom.”

–Liana Heitin


Gov. Sam Brownback (R) • Jan. 15

Calling K-12 education one of “the major drivers in state spending increases,” Gov. Brownback called for a new funding formula for the Sunflower State’s schools.

“For decades now, Kansas has struggled under a school finance formula which is designed not to be understood—to frustrate efforts at accountability and efficiency,” he said.

Gov. Brownback urged the legislature to repeal the state’s current formula and appropriate money directly to districts during the next two-year budget cycle while it drafts a new funding plan.

In December, a district court ruled that Kansas’ school funding system is “inadequate from any rational perspective.”

The state also has a projected $278 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2015.

–Evie Blad


Gov. Rick Snyder (R) • Jan. 20

In his speech to state lawmakers, Gov. Snyder said it is his goal to eliminate barriers that keep state residents from taking advantage of the “river of opportunity.”

One of those barriers, he said, is the inability to read proficiently by 3rd grade. The governor said he plans to introduce legislation that will support students in the early grades, and will also ask for a commission to develop further recommendations the state can adopt to help young readers. Currently, 70 percent of the state’s children reach the 3rd grade reading benchmark, he said.

In addition, the governor said that he wants to tackle the “uncoordinated educational environment” in Detroit, which currently has charter schools with dozens of different authorizers, schools that are managed by the local district, and low-performing schools that are overseen by the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

“Before the first half of the year, I hope to call for legislation to bring more structure and more thoughtfulness to deal with these challenged situations,” Mr. Snyder said.

He is required to present a budget proposal to state lawmakers by mid-February.

–Christina Samuels


Gov. Jay Nixon (D) • Jan. 21

Calling education “the best economic development tool we have,” the governor said his proposed budget would increase public education funding by $150 million to allow for more technology in classrooms, smaller class sizes, more hands-on learning, and higher teacher pay. If his budget is approved, it would amount to a record allocation for K-12 schools.

Mr. Nixon also recommended start-up grants to expand Project Lead the Way to 350 more elementary schools. Currently, 34 elementary schools offer these programs. The nonprofit provides K-12 programs for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math. To boost kindergarten readiness, the governor proposed awarding $11 million in the form of grants to public and private preschools to serve disadvantaged 3- to 5-year-olds.

In the wake of statewide and national protests over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson last year, the governor said Ferguson’s legacy will be determined by what is done next “to foster healing and hope.” One of his recommended remedies: to “strengthen failing schools.”

Tiffany Anderson, the superintendent of the 2,500-student Jennings school district which neighbors Ferguson, and a 2015 Education Week Leader to Learn From, attended the speech and received accolades from the governor. Despite high poverty in the district, her students “have made big leaps forward over the past several years with higher test scores and higher graduation rates.”

–Michele Molnar


Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) • Jan. 22

In his inaugural State of the State speech, Gov. Ricketts laid out a two-year budget plan that would increase state aid to schools by 3 percent during the 2015-16 school year and 1.6 percent during the 2016-17 school year.

“As we seek to create jobs, slow the growth of government, reduce taxes, and fight burdensome regulations, we must also continue to strengthen our education system,” Mr. Ricketts said. “As we balance our budget, we must ensure we put a priority on proper school funding and improving educational outcomes.”

He said his budget would provide a 3 percent increase in funding for the University of Nebraska, the state colleges, and the community colleges. He also proposed a $250,000 a year pilot program, that would fund a public-private partnership to create new career- and vocational-training programs.

–Lauren Camera


Gov. Susana Martinez (R) • Jan. 20

Gov. Martinez called on state lawmakers to raise starting teacher salaries by an additional $2,000 per year, provide every teacher with a $100 debit card each year to purchase classroom supplies, and offer two-year stipends to attract bilingual, special education, and math and science teachers.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez kisses 8th grader Kendal Sanders during her State of the State address at the New Mexico state capitol in Santa Fe, N.M., Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Sanders and class mate, Nathaniel Tavarez, right, were shot and injured at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M., last year.

Ms. Martinez also wants to create a new teacher mentoring program that would aid struggling instructors. She also urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would require 3rd graders to be retained if they cannot read proficiently. “Let’s acknowledge the devastating, negative ripple effects of socially promoting our youngest children. It impacts their ability to learn and succeed; it makes it harder for teachers in later grades to bring them up to speed,” the governor said.

Stressing the importance of students earning a high school diploma, Gov. Martinez said districts should hire dropout-prevention specialists to help guide youths through to graduation day. To that end, she said lawmakers should pass a bill that would not allow habitually truant students to keep or obtain their drivers’ licenses.

–Corey Mitchell


Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) • Jan. 21

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a broad package of proposals that would significantly alter teacher evaluations in the state, raise the cap on the number of charter schools by 100 to 560 schools, and allot $25 million in new funding for prekindergarten to serve 3-year-olds.

If legislators approve his proposed policy changes, the governor said he would in turn approve a $1.1 billion increase in state aid for public schools.

In his speech, the governor, a Democrat, also indicated that overhauling K-12 education was the key issue facing lawmakers. “This is the area, my friends, where I think we need to do the most reform, and where reform is going to be the most difficult,” he said.

In a move that riled the state’s teachers’ unions, Gov. Cuomo said that the weight of state assessments in teacher evaluations should be increased from the current figure of 20 percent to 50 percent. He wants to extend the probationary period for teachers before they receive tenure from three to five years. And he said teachers who receive two poor evaluation ratings should be dismissed unless they can show their evaluations are flawed.

–Andrew Ujifusa

A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 2015 edition of Education Week as State of the States


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