State of the States 2011: Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming
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State of the States 2011: Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming

January 18, 2011 11 min read
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie uses his first State of the State address to call for revamping teacher evaluation and tenure, and to emphasize charter schools and choice. Read more about Christie's address.
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For complete coverage of this year’s governors’ speeches, check out State of the States 2011.

COLORADO

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)

Gov. Hickenlooper’s first State of the State address emphasized Colorado’s budgetary difficulties in the face of what he called a billion-dollar budget deficit.

Gov. Hickenlooper, who was elected in November and previously was the mayor of Denver, spoke only briefly about K-12 education in his Jan. 13 speech to the legislature.

“The past four years have marked Colorado as a leader in education reform,” he said, “and we have important work to see through, both the goal of ensuring a student-centered education system ... and the creation of a fair and effective educator-evaluation system.” —Erik W. Robelen

GEORGIA

Nathan Deal (R) | Jan. 12

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Deal said he is committed to saving the nationally known hope college scholarship program, which offers those who qualify full-tuition scholarships to in-state public colleges, universities, and trade schools.

But with a proposed fiscal year 2012 budget that does not authorize program expenditures beyond what can be funded through a state lottery, Gov. Deal said preserving the program will require “programmatic changes during this legislative session.”

State of the States

BRIC ARCHIVE

Education is feeling the pinch as state budgets tighten nationwide. Read what the governors plan for education funding and reform in 2011 in our State of the State and budget address roundups. Read more.

The governor, who succeeded term-limited Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, said $150 million in reserve funds were used to cover scholarship expenditures in fiscal year 2010. In fiscal 2011, now half completed, it could take more than twice that amount to maintain operation of the program.

Gov. Deal also indicated his budget for fiscal 2012 would include a net increase of $30 million in the state K-12 formula funding for the Quality Basic Education Program, or a 0.4 percent bump, according to the newly released budget reports.

But that is the only bright spot in a broader $7 billion education budget that includes $25 million in proposed state funding cuts across other K-12 programs, and the loss of more than $750 million in federal economic recovery funding. The state’s own funding for K-12, separate from federal stimulus funds, is up just under $5 million from the previous fiscal year.

“Let me be clear: my budget will end teacher furloughs and keep students in school for a full year,” said Gov. Deal. Statewide teacher furloughs have been a reality in Georgia since 2009, following the recession that began in late 2007.

The governor also said a good chunk of his proposed $563 million bond package would be focused toward education, including $231 million for K-12 construction and $15 million for funding charter schools specializing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or stem, education. —Ian Quillen

INDIANA

Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (R) | Jan. 11

Gov. Daniels dedicated the majority of his speech to the state Assembly to plans for an overhaul of Indiana’s education system, both to improve students’ readiness for global jobs and to shore up the local economy.

Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. tells state legislators that an overhaul of Indiana's education system is crucial to the economy and the state's global competitiveness.

“When we are courting a new business, right behind taxes, the cost of energy, reasonable regulation, and transportation facilities comes schools,” he said in the 33-minute speech. “Sometimes, in some places, it costs us jobs today.”

Many of the changes seem primed to appeal to his fellow Republicans now in charge of the legislature. Gov. Daniels argued for basing teacher tenure and pay on student achievement and limiting the areas of school operations that can be restricted by union contracts.

For students who graduate from high school in three years, he proposed that the state provide the money it otherwise would have paid in per-pupil school aid to the students themselves to use for college or other education-related services.

Indiana has interdistrict public school choice, and Mr. Daniels pushed for the legislature to require schools with waiting lists to use lotteries or other blind selection processes to fill their seats. He also called for expanding charter schools in the state and requiring districts to turn over unused school buildings to them. He would create a new program to allow parents to use state-funded vouchers for private schools as well. —Sarah D. Sparks

KANSAS

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) | Jan. 12

Gov. Brownback, a newly elected Republican who previously served in the U.S. Senate, promised he would deliver a state budget to the legislature that increases school funding, but said it was up to lawmakers to determine what a “suitable” education is under the Kansas constitution.

His comments in his first State of the State address referred to an ongoing federal lawsuit from parents who are challenging a state-mandated cap on how much local districts can raise outside of the state school-funding formula. “Let the legislature resolve school finance… not the courts, so we can send more money to the classroom, not the courtroom,” he said.

Gov. Brownback also proposed redirecting $6 million in state funds to develop new early education centers that will focus on building reading skills among children in the state’s lowest-performing districts. —Michele McNeil

NEW JERSEY

Gov. Chris Christie (R) | Jan. 11

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Christie called for revamping teacher evaluation and tenure and working to help charter schools and school choice flourish.

The governor ranked education reform in the top three most important issues facing the Garden State. His approach to that work, however, has antagonized the state teachers’ union during his first year in office.

Gov. Christie called it a “top priority” to persuade the Democratic-controlled legislature to expand the number of charter schools beyond the 73 now in operation. He urged lawmakers to allow more organizations to serve as authorizers for such schools, and to approve a bill that would give tax credits to corporations that award private school scholarships to students in low-performing schools.

The governor reiterated his calls to base teachers’ pay on their students’ performance, eliminate tenure, and make it easier for schools to remove poorly performing teachers.

Faced with having to make deep budget cuts in fiscal 2012, Mr. Christie said nothing about protecting K-12 funding. Instead, he declared that he intends to “end the myth that more money equals better achievement.” —Catherine Gewertz

NEW YORK

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) | Jan. 5

Gov. Cuomo challenged state lawmakers in his address to help him reduce spending and taxes and proposed new competitions for school districts to reward those that improve academic performance and take innovative cost-cutting steps.

The new governor called for a “fundamental realignment” of state government to reduce state and local spending and taxes, which he said place too great a burden on residents and stifle economic growth.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo thanks dignitaries during his first State of the State address, in Albany.

That realignment needs to include the state’s education system, which he argued is producing mediocre results for the amount of money spent on it. Rather than simply awarding money to districts through formula grants, he proposed the creation of a $250 million competitive-grant fund for districts that raise academic performance, and another $250 million competition for districts that find administrative savings through efforts such as sharing services. He likened his proposal to the federal Race to the Top competition, which provided $4 billion in competitive grants aimed at rewarding states for school innovation. New York won $700 million through that program.

“The federal government is actually more innovative in this area,” said Gov. Cuomo, who added: “Competition works; ... When you just give people cash with no results, you take the incentives out of the system.”

New York’s total general fund budget stands at about $54 billion, and its K-12 general fund is $19.8 billion, according to the New York state division of the budget. (That money does not include an additional $2 billion in school funding that was approved the previous year but carried over to 2010-11, the budget division said.) The day of his speech, the governor also announced that he had signed an executive order creating a “mandate relief team,” which will seek ways to reduce unfunded mandates imposed by the state on local entities, including school districts. —Sean Cavanagh

NORTH DAKOTA

Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) | Jan. 4

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Dalrymple pushed state legislators to “finish the job of funding adequacy” that began with the passage of a K-12 and higher-education funding bill in 2009. That bill included a stipulation that no less than 70 percent of all state education funding must be directed toward teacher compensation, and was championed as a measure to free taxpayers from local tax burdens.

The funding adequacy legislation was passed under previous Gov. John Hoeven, also a Republican, who resigned in December after winning one the state’s U.S. Senate seats in the November elections.

Including money from the spending bill, state funding of K-12 education increased by about $110 million, or 14 percent, to $887 million for the current 2009-2011 biennial state fiscal cycle.

Mr. Dalrymple, who assumed the governorship after serving as lieutenant governor under Mr. Hoeven, didn’t outline any specific education polices or funding alterations in his speech, but said that after achieving adequacy, the state must turn to improving instruction in schools, and stressed the importance of teacher professional development in achieving that goal. He also pushed the importance of parental involvement. —Ian Quillen

VIRGINIA

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) | Jan. 12

Precollegiate education was notable for its absence in Gov. McDonnell’s 40-minute State of the Commonwealth speech, which concentrated instead on areas he labeled his top priorities for 2012: higher education, jobs creation, transportation and reform of state government.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell waves to his wife as he arrives for his State of the Commonwealth address, in Richmond. In a year when lawmakers and governors in many states are facing tough budget choices, Gov. McDonnell has proposed having state employees contribute 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions; Virginia is one of a handful of states to carry the full cost of state pensions.

Gov. McDonnell said it was “unconscionable” that state university tuition has doubled in the past decade, and proposed $50 million in new money for higher education in 2012 to improve degree attainment, financial aid and graduation rates. He also urged colleges to focus on science, technology, mathematics and engineering education to help the state build a stronger workforce.

As part of his push to reform state government, Gov. McDonnell has proposed requiring state employees to contribute 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. Virginia is one of the few states to carry the entire cost of such pensions. But the governor said this is no longer possible, since the state retirement system is underfunded by $17.6 billion. —C.G.

WASHINGTON

Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) | Jan. 11

In her annual speech to legislators, Gov. Gregoire encouraged them to reduce the amount of money spent on pensions and health care and to consolidate state agencies from 21 to nine in order to weather the current economic downturn. “Every dollar we spend on health care and pensions means we have one fewer dollar to educate our children,” she said.

As part of the effort to streamline state agencies, Gov. Gregoire has proposed merging the state’s eight education agencies into one department of education that would oversee education from prekindergarten through the Ph.D. level. She placed emphasis on making 12th grade relevant and exciting for high schoolers and ensuring that students leave high school on a path to certifications, apprenticeships, or higher education.

Gov. Gregoire also voiced support for the recommendations of the Higher Education Funding Task Force, which aim to increase the number of college graduates, ensure greater accountability for higher education institutions, establish stable funding, and create a $1 billion Washington Pledge Scholarship Program. —Katie Ash

WEST VIRGINIA

Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (R) | Jan. 13

Mr. Tomblin, the state Senate president now serving as acting governor, proposed in his address giving all teachers a one-time, $800 across-the-board bonus. In doing so, he acknowledged that the state cannot afford any additional raises for teachers given the slow-going economic recovery.

“This recognizes the hard work that our teachers put into our system while at the same time does not add to our base budget,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Tomblin said his education priorities during the upcoming legislative session are reducing the dropout rate, eliminating teacher shortages that persist in some areas of the state, and improving vocational skills from middle school students on up. —M.M.

WYOMING

Gov. Matt Mead (R) | Jan. 12

Saying that state spending on education amounted to “a Cadillac plan without Cadillac results,” Gov. Mead called for changes to teacher evaluation and voiced support for charter schools, but offered no specific legislative proposals. The new governor said most teachers and administrators are doing an excellent job, but he encouraged districts to come up with standards for judging whether teachers are doing a good job teaching. He called for a testing system to help measure both students’ and teachers’ successes and problem areas. He said that “a simple statutory change to alter teacher contracts without more is not a cure-all.” Gov. Mead also voiced support for charter schools, but said they cannot “cherry-pick the best students.” —Stephen Sawchuk

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A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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