States

State of the States: Hawaii, N.H., Pa., R.I., Wyo.

February 16, 2016 3 min read
Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., highlighted preparation for college and the workforce and early-childhood issues in her annual address to legislators.
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Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.

HAWAII
Gov. David Ige (D) • Jan. 25

Of the brief time the governor devoted to education in his State of the State speech, most of it was focused on bringing clean energy to the classroom.

Hawaii needs to find more efficient ways to cool classrooms, Ige said, to relieve the state’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. He plans to use $100 million in Green Energy Market Securitization funds from the state’s energy department to make classrooms more energy efficient.

—Arianna Prothero

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) • Feb. 4

The governor told legislators that preparing K-12 students for higher education and the changing workforce, in particular by improving science, technology, engineering, and math education, is a priority.

New Hampshire has been a leader in competency-based education, Hassan noted. A handful of schools in the state are now attempting to reduce standardized testing “in favor of more locally managed assessments that are integrated into the student’s day-to-day work—a model that is expanding nationally based on our success,” she said.

The governor also said she’ll focus on early-childhood education, including working to give all children access to full-day kindergarten.

Further, the state will expand afterschool and youth-employment programs. And through a new pilot program, counselors will work with at-risk middle school students “to develop education and career plans,” she said.

—Liana Heitin

PENNSYLVANIA
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) • Feb. 9

In his second annual budget address, Wolf berated Pennsylvania lawmakers for being more than 200 days late—and counting—in passing a version of his first budget, originally presented almost a year ago as a way to restore years of cuts to public education while also addressing the state’s long-term structural deficit.

“We are sitting at the bottom of a $2 billion hole. It is simply unbelievable that some folks in this chamber want to keep digging,” Wolf said.

In December, the legislature’s House Republican leaders walked away from a deal to balance the state’s books while sending $350 million to schools. If lawmakers don’t approve a balanced budget for the current fiscal year,

Wolf warned, local property taxes will skyrocket, while teachers and programs will be slashed.

Although he didn’t address specifics in his speech, Wolf presented a fiscal 2017 budget that includes an additional $200 million increase in basic education funding—which totaled $5.5 billion in fiscal 2015, the last budget before the current impasse. His new proposal also calls for multimillion-dollar boosts for early-childhood and other programs, as well as significant changes in the way charter schools are funded.

—Benjamin Herold

RHODE ISLAND
Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) • Feb. 2

The governor pegged a number of education proposals, including a revision to Rhode Island’s school funding formula, to the state’s need for a pipeline of skilled workers in her annual address to lawmakers.

To help “level the playing field” between traditional schools and charters, if a student moved to a charter school, aportion of per-pupil funding would stay behind at the district school, Raimondo said. The formula would also put more funding into schools educating students with greater needs, but those schools would need to adopt “proven best practices.”

Her $1.35 billion K-12 budget request, an increase of 2.5 percent from fiscal 2016, also would require each school to make its budget publicly available online.

In addition, the governor requested $50 million to modernize school buildings, proposed making the SAT college-entrance exam free for all students, and said she would expand computer science in all grades.

—Stephen Sawchuk

WYOMING
Gov. Matt Mead (D) • Feb. 8

Education wasn’t a marquee issue for Mead in his annual speech to lawmakers—that was reserved for his proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act despite the state’s resistance to Obamacare—but K-12 did warrant a mention or two.

Declining coal production has hampered efforts to continue improving school spending (more than a third of coal revenue goes to education), but the governor nixed calls to raise taxes, instead calling for other proposals to keep K-12 coffers full.

“There are no easy answers,” he said. “Over the next year, we need private businesses, schools, legislators, the executive branch, and others to look at school funding and the options. Let’s look before we leap.”

—Stephen Sawchuk

A version of this article appeared in the February 17, 2016 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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