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Promising to continue making education a top priority for his administration, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has outlined a series of initiatives for schools.
“My education goals are straightforward—improve student test scores, provide a quality teacher in every classroom, increase graduation rates, and make every school dollar count,” he said in his recent State of the State Address.
In his first year as governor, Mr. Richardson, a Democrat who was elected in 2002, enjoyed a series of legislative victories on education—a point he made clear during his Jan. 20 speech.
Last September, New Mexico voters approved a proposal that allows the governor to appoint a state secretary of education. The measure eliminated the post of a state schools superintendent, who had been appointed by the 15-member state board of education.
The measure gave Gov. Richardson more power over public education than any of his predecessors enjoyed.
He also received the money he said he needed to pay for his school improvement plans. Another measure on the same Sept. 23 ballot added $600 million over 12 years to school financing from the state’s permanent education fund, which is made up of royalties from leases on public lands.
“As a result of the passage of the education amendments approved by New Mexico voters last year, education is a blank slate on which we will write a new governance plan together,” Mr. Richardson said.
Looking ahead, Mr. Richardson, who served as U.S. secretary of energy and United Nations ambassador under President Clinton, proposed $90 million in new spending for K- 12 education in fiscal 2005, in a plan that included socking away $35 million in an “education lockbox” for future improvements.
He announced a pilot program that would bring laptop computers to all 7th graders. More than 700 students and 80 teachers would receive laptops in the first phase of the program. Eventually, every 7th grader would have one.
The governor said he would phase in full-day kindergarten under a plan that has been only partially implemented.
He would also put into place the first and second steps of the state’s new three-tiered teacher-licensure system. Last year, Mr. Richardson signed into law a three-tiered system for teacher salaries. It set a minimum annual salary of $30,000, starting this past December. The minimum salary for teachers in New Mexico had been $22,000.
His plan would also seek to strengthen Native American education by increasing the numbers of American Indian teachers and administrators in schools and in the state education agency.
Gov. Richardson proposed $27 million in capital spending to help create charter vocational schools and help other charter schools get on an equal footing with traditional public schools.
“I am a strong supporter of charter schools,” he said. “They provide opportunities for students to connect with the education process, and find a path to success. The 27 charter schools across the state are showing tremendous promise as alternatives for families who want something different— within the public school system—for their children.”
H. Fred Pomeroy, the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators, said he hoped the plan for charter school funding wouldn’t come at the expense of the traditional public schools.
“So long as there are appropriate funds for improving facilities at all public schools, if that can include charter schools, we are supportive of that,” said Mr. Pomeroy, whose group represents 1,400 school administrators. “The dollars need to address the big picture.”
Governor Plants Seeds
For Full-Day Kindergarten
In an effort to bolster the ranks for the state’s teachers, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has urged the legislature to approve her plan to set up a Delaware Teacher Corps.
Under the proposal, which the chief executive outlined in her Jan. 22 State of the State Address, the state would pay for one year of schooling at an in- state college or university for each year a teacher committed to working at a Delaware public school.
Gov. Minner, a Democrat, said, “I propose that we utilize the Teacher Corps to fill one of the critical needs of our school system: the need for math and science teachers in our middle and high schools.”
Outlining other priorities, the governor said she wanted to expand the state’s initiative that puts reading specialists in schools to every elementary school in Delaware by adding 68 specialists to the program. She did not say in her speech how much that would cost.
She said that her budget proposal would also include $1 million to develop a plan to offer statewide full-day kindergarten by 2008. “This is a promise full of challenge, but worthy goals always are,” she said.
Finally, Ms. Minner, who is in the last year of her four-year term, said that she wanted an additional $9 million in the fiscal 2005 state budget for funding that would go directly to classrooms for textbooks, technology, and other supplies.
“Children cannot learn without the proper tools, and providing those materials is part of our responsibility as well,” the governor said.
— C. Johnston
For Single-District State
Gov. Linda Lingle used her State of the State Address last week to reiterate her goal of placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would allow Hawaii voters to decide whether the state’s single school district should be decentralized.
“We have concluded that our school system is structured in a way that just doesn’t work for the children. It didn’t work last year or five years ago or 10 years ago,” the Republican governor told legislators during her Jan. 26 address. “The centralized department of education is too far removed from the schools to see and respond to actual teacher and student needs.”
In addition to promoting local school districts with elected boards, Gov. Lingle said she supported a proposed “weighted” student funding formula.
In her fiscal 2005 budget blueprint, the governor—who took office a year ago—is asking the legislature for $480,000 to pay teachers who earn national certification an additional $5,000 per year, and $90 million for repairs and maintenance at schools throughout the state.
She is also proposing a new Statewide Education Standards and Accountability Commission, which would be similar to independent panels in other states that are in charge of school accountability systems.
To help reduce illegal-drug use, the governor proposed a new after- school initiative targeting middle school students. It would be paid for with $5 million in federal funds that are already available to the state, she said.
“These programs will enrich our children and provide peace of mind for their parents,” she said.
Grant Winners May Face
With a slow economy continuing to batter Michigan, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm made jobs the centerpiece of her Jan. 27 State of the State Address. In her second such speech, education, along with other sectors of state spending, played second fiddle to the all-important task of adding to Michigan’s job base.
Addressing the legislature, Gov. Granholm emphasized redirecting existing resources to children. And she called on the state’s best high school students to make a service contribution in exchange for the $2,500 scholarships that now go to more than 40,000 college-bound high school graduates.
Under such a requirement, the governor said, students would “contribute over 2 million hours of service in their communities.”
Ms. Granholm touted the early-childhood focus she announced last year, citing the distribution of kits to all new parents to help them recognize their role as first teachers, as well as efforts to coordinate and improve services to children.
The Democratic governor referred to a new regulation requiring staff members at child-care centers to read to their charges a minimum of a half hour a day. “Day-care centers should not merely provide a bouncy seat and a crib,” she declared.
To schools that will land on this week’s list of those who have not made adequate academic progress, Gov. Granholm offered encouragement— but no new money.
Holden Revives Call
To Raise Taxes
Gov. Bob Holden has taken the Missouri legislature to task for “cutting education funding” and has proposed a plan to finance education that would restore cuts made last year.
“Some of you obviously think there is courage in cutting education funding,” Gov. Holden said in his Jan. 21 State of the State Address. “But where is the courage in merely shifting the burden onto local governments? Where is the courage in forcing your local constituents to raise property taxes? And where is the courage in siding with gambling and tobacco interests over the welfare of our children in public schools?”
For the third time, Mr. Holden, a Democrat, proposed a strategy that has proved unpopular with the Republican- controlled legislature: increase casino and cigarette taxes, close corporate loopholes, and raise the income tax on the top 1.4 percent of taxpayers.
Mr. Holden’s plan would generate $520 million for fiscal 2005, which starts July 1. The legislature has twice rejected similar plans.
Last year, the governor had a showdown with the legislature over the K-12 budget. After twice vetoing the education budget bill, Gov. Holden approved the measure just in time for the start of the fiscal year, thus avoiding a government shutdown.
He contended that the $19.1 billion fiscal 2004 state budget was $240 million short, and he used his constitutional power to withhold $240 million, saying the action was needed to balance spending. Some $190 million of that was state aid for elementary and secondary education. The governor later released $83 million of that amount to schools.
Gov. Holden said his proposed $18.8 billion state budget plan for fiscal 2005 would restore education funding to the level before the cuts.
Sanford Makes Case
For Tax Reform
Gov. Mark Sanford told a state hobbled by manufacturing-job losses and cuts in education funding that new ideas would lead to new prosperity.
The Republican, who has entered his second year in office, urged during his Jan. 21 State of the State Address that lawmakers pass his phaseout of the state income tax. He argued that his plan would shift the tax burden away from workers and help with economic development.
He also pushed for Florida-style school choice programs that he argued could help fix public schools that lag the nation in some categories.
Gov. Sanford said that parents should have a tax credit for private-school-tuition costs as a “novel way of addressing equity concerns,” and that the state should be “giving parents more choices.”
“I just know we have to change to prosper,” he said.
The state, meanwhile, is fighting a school finance lawsuit filed by rural school districts.
Gov. Sanford also called for voters to decide if the state education superintendent and other officials should be appointed rather than elected. And he invited South Carolinians to join his family in a bike ride across the state to promote healthier eating and exercise.
Walker Seeks Funding
For Teachers, Reform
Gov. Olene S. Walker is calling on the legislature to give teachers a 2 percent pay raise and find funding for an academic-reform program in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Ms. Walker, a Republican, spelled out her agenda in her Jan. 22 State of the State Address—her first since taking over for former Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, who joined the Bush administration last year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new governor dedicated much of her speech to K-12 issues. She argued, for instance, that the state needs to work harder to keep teachers. “I keep hearing, ‘I would love to stay, but this county or that city is making me an offer I can’t refuse,’” she said.
Noting that Utah’s average spending per pupil is “is 40 percent of the national average,” Gov. Walker also lobbied lawmakers to include adequate funding in the state’s fiscal 2005 budget to cover the influx of new students into the system. She did not offer a specific amount.
The governor also pushed for $30 million in new state aid to pay for getting the long-debated “Performance Plus” reform package into K-3 classrooms. Originally estimated to cost $200 million for all grades, the program would expand how students are taught and evaluated in order to demonstrate competence in academic areas.
In addition, the governor promised to continue promoting her “Read With a Child” program, which encourages adults to read to children 20 minutes a day.
— C. Johnston
Citing School Successes,
Governor Seeks More Aid
Gov. Bob Wise is seeking an increase in education spending, despite facing a $120 million budget gap in his state.
Mr. Wise, a Democrat, proposed increasing school spending by $39 million within the $3.2 billion budget for the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years in his Jan. 14 State of the State Address.
He said that despite economic travails, the state could point to education triumphs, such as sending students to school for 180 days of instruction a year, instead of letting districts count snow days or planning days as part of the calendar; staffing a safe-schools help line 24 hours a day; and improving teacher salaries.
“The past three years have seen a revolution in education in West Virginia,” the governor said. “We’re doing more than ever before to give our children a quality education.”
He called for creation of a statewide system of tracking dangerous students so they couldn’t just enroll in other schools after they had been expelled. Mr. Wise also proposed that teachers who receive national certification be given bonuses of $3,500—a $1,000 increase.
In addition, the governor called for a limit on the time students must travel on buses to school. He said no elementary school students should ride a bus more than 30 minutes one way to school. Currently, the state has no such time limit.
Detailed Plan to Come,
It is the responsibility of the Wisconsin government to promote healthy minds, healthy bodies, and healthy families for the state’s youngest citizens, goals that can be met both in K-12 schools and in the home, Gov. James E. Doyle said in his recent State of the State Address.
“I’m not here to unveil a host of expensive new programs, because while our state finances are back on track, we’re not out of the woods yet,” the Democrat added in his Jan. 21 speech.
He told the audience, however, that he advocated parent education and home visits by teachers for children considered at risk of school failure; money to expand kindergarten for 4-year-olds; and a focus on literacy.
He did not say how such ideas would be pursued or where money to pay for them would come from.
“Later this spring, I will announce a detailed package of reforms, from improving oral health for children, to improving foster care, to promoting quality child care, to cracking down on deadbeat parents, to setting higher standards for early education,” Gov. Doyle continued.
The Democrat, who was elected in 2002, said a task force on educational excellence would examine school funding, the state’s means of supporting special education, and the recruitment and retention of teachers in the upcoming year.
Gov. Doyle did detail a new public-private partnership to improve physical education curricula and fitness equipment. Over the next three years, Wisconsin will start nearly 100 fitness programs in K-12 schools at a cost of $10 million.
Of that amount more than half will likely come from foundations.