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State of the States 2010: Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyoming

February 23, 2010 5 min read
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For complete coverage of this year’s governors’ speeches, check out State of the States 2010.

MINNESOTA

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) |Feb. 11

Gov. Pawlenty told state lawmakers that the school districts in Minneapolis and St. Paul should be taken over by the mayors in those cities. In what was his final State of the State address, he also asked the legislature to overhaul teacher tenure; the current system is a “public-policy fossil,” he said.

The governor, who chose not to run this year for a third term, said “too many” students in Minnesota aren’t doing well. “Persistently low-achieving schools need new leadership, new authority, and new teachers hired and assigned based on performance, not seniority,” he said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty acknowledges a military family in the Minnesota House balcony as he delivers his last State of the State address at the Capitol in St. Paul this month.

He stated his belief that large urban school systems change most frequently when mayors control them and when “alternative” school models are used.

Mr. Pawlenty said that teacher tenure should be renewed every five years and should be based on evaluations that are linked to student academic performance. —Mary Ann Zehr

NEVADA

Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) |Feb. 8

Predicting a dire $1 billion shortfall in the state’s $6 billion general fund, Gov. Gibbons pleaded with his state’s legislators to consider an education plan, unveiled in January, that would allow school districts to opt out of state mandates on class size and early-childhood education.

In his speech, the governor pledged not to raise taxes and vowed to use savings from scaling back such programs to make ends meet.

“Under my education reform plan, these programs will not be eliminated, only the mandate from Carson City will,” he said. “If a local school board decides a program works for their kids, they can do it. And they will have the flexibility to do it, not because the government tells them, but because they decide it is best for their students.”

Gov. Gibbons backed up his plan by noting that student enrollment has fallen for the first time in 25 years.

In discussing a possible 6 percent salary reduction for state employees, the governor said he had donated 6 percent of his own salary to create an awards program for exceptional teachers.

He also pledged to create “education gift certificates” to allow citizens to donate money to a non-profit organization that will use it to boost teachers’ salaries. —Stephen Sawchuk

PENNSYLVANIA

Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) |Feb. 9

In his last budget address, Gov. Rendell singled out greater investments in the Keystone State’s public education system as one of the most important legacies of his two terms in office.

Among the education accomplishments the term-limited governor highlighted were expanding support for preschool programs, raising the state’s share of education funding, and revamping the school funding formula to boost the poorest districts’ resources.

In a speech that focused on managing state spending during perilous economic times, the governor proposed spending $5.9 billion on the biggest chunk of the state’s pre-K-12 education aid, its “basic subsidy,” for fiscal 2011. That represents a $354 million, or 6.4 percent, increase over the basic-subsidy level approved in the fiscal 2010 budget.

Mr. Rendell proposed an overall state budget of $26.3 billion for 2011. Including federal stimulus-funding increases, the budget would come to $29 billion, which, if approved, would be a 4 percent increase over the current year’s spending plan.

The governor also urged lawmakers to begin socking away money in a reserve fund to survive a “fiscal tsunami” that will begin taking shape in 2011, caused by a $4 billion increase in the state’s pension obligations and the end of $2.3 billion in federal stimulus aid. —Catherine Gewertz

TENNESSEE

Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) |Feb. 1

Gov. Bredesen used his final annual address to the legislature to make a direct plea to teachers across Tennessee to work with him to develop an evaluation system that uses student achievement as a measure of how well teachers are performing.

The speech followed the passage of education legislation early in the year that will overhaul several of the state’s teacher policies, including how teacher performance is judged. As part of its application for the Race to the Top competition under the federal economic-stimulus program, Tennessee is one of a few states that have pledged to base half of a teacher’s annual performance on student achievement.

Mr. Bredesen, who leaves office early next year because of term limits, also unveiled a $28.4 billion budget plan for fiscal 2011 that is roughly 5 percent smaller than the current state budget. The governor proposes $5.3 billion for pre-K-12 programs, a 2.9 percent bump from the current year’s spending. —Lesli A. Maxwell

WYOMING

Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) |Feb. 8

Although the state is known for its rainy-day reserve account, Gov. Freudenthal still underscored the need for fiscal prudence in his address to Wyoming legislators, intimating that education spending should be subject to greater accountability.

The governor is supportive of an overall 8.5 percent reduction in capital spending for schools, but he took issue with the mechanism proposed by the state’s joint appropriations committee. It seeks to cut four projects from the list of schools due for capital construction. The construction provides much-needed jobs, is bringing in strong bids, and fulfills a commitment to districts, he said.

On education spending overall, Gov. Freudenthal implored lawmakers to consider the effectiveness of current funding. “The way we should do this is to recalibrate education funding against a standard: Is it producing the results we expect?” he said. Too few students complete an education, and test scores are far lower than they should be, he added.

Near the end of his address, Gov. Freudenthal also criticized the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as an example of federal intrusion into state matters.

We are at a point, whether it is No Child Left Behind or the latest set of rules on how you report domestic-violence numbers, he said, [that] at the end of the day the federal government is regulating nearly everything, nearly everything. —Stephen Sawchuk

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A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 2010 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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