States of the States: Calif., Colo., Mich., Neb., N.M., S.C., Wis.

January 26, 2016 6 min read
Gov. Nikki Haley focused heavily on education in her annual address to lawmakers at the statehouse in Columbia on Jan. 20. She proposed a statewide review of school facilities and efforts to recruit teachers for rural districts.

Here are summaries of recent annual addresses by governors around the country.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) • Jan. 21

California would pour $72 billion into its K-14 budget in fiscal year 2017, up from $47 billion in the fiscal 2011 budget—when Gov. Brown was new in the office—under a proposal Brown described to lawmakers in his annual address, saying that much of that money will go to districts to spend on low-income students, those in foster care and English-language learners.

The state in 2013 approved a spending and accountability plan that gives significant authority to local districts in those areas. With the recent enactment of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, that model, Brown said, sets an example for other states around the country.

“For the last two decades, there has been a national movement to micromanage teachers from afar, through increasingly minute and prescriptive state and federal regulations,” Brown said. “California successfully fought that movement and has now changed its overly intrusive, test-heavy state control to a true system of local accountability.”

–Daarel Burnette II

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) • Jan. 14

Gov. John Hickenlooper (R)

Hickenlooper called his state a national leader in closing the “attainment gap” by working to increase the number of minority students who earn postsecondary degrees, but said it still is working to make improvements in that area.

“Developing a world-class talent pipeline is critical to attracting more business and investment in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in his annual address. “But our minority students earn postsecondary degrees at half the rate that our white students do.”

He praised the state’s concurrent enrollment programs, through which students can earn high school and college credits for the same coursework. Hickenlooper also praised bipartisan legislation passed in the last session that reduced standardized testing by 30 hours. He added that he would not support eliminating 9th grade assessments.

–Evie Blad

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) • Jan. 19

The contrite governor spent most of his address to the legislature outlining solutions to a water crisis in Flint that has left hundreds of the city’s children with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

But Snyder also talked about the ongoing educational crisis in the Detroit public schools, which are being overseen by an emergency manager who was once in charge of managing the fiscally troubled city of Flint. The governor spoke in praise of a recently introduced series of bills that would create a new district, Detroit Community Schools, leaving the old district structure in place solely to retire debts. The Detroit Community Schools would start out with an appointed board that would convertto an elected board in 2017.

As now structured, the Detroit district has $515 million in operating debts, and managers have warned it could go bankrupt this spring if its obligations are not restructured.

Snyder also said he supports a recommendation from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren—an independent group of city leaders that came together in 2014—to create a Detroit Education Commission. That commission, with members appointed by the mayor, would coordinate education for all Detroit students, whether they are enrolled in regular public or charter schools.

“This is a good idea, but it hasn’t drawn much support,” Snyder said. “We should keep looking at this key element to help Detroit’s kids.”

–Christina A. Samuels

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) • Jan. 14

Schools got only a couple of brief, parenthetical mentions in the governor’s most recent speech to legislators, including in a section where he decried the increasing share of the state budget taken up by Medicaid, warning that this “government entitlement crowds out investments in tax relief, education, and roads—things we need to grow our state.”

And Ricketts criticized the fickle nature of the federal budget by noting that the federal contribution to the expansion of special education in Nebraska schools is 20 percent of the total cost, or roughly half of what Washington had promised.

–Andrew Ujifusa

Gov. Susana Martinez (R) • Jan. 19

In her sixth annual address to lawmakers, Martinez touted proposals to strengthen and support the state’s teaching corps, add more prekindergartenclassrooms around the state, and spend more money on reading interventions to boost student literacy.

To recruit, retain, and reward educators, Martinez wants legislators to raise the minimum starting-teacher salary to $36,000, a $2,000 increase; expand the state’s loan-repayment program; award more state-sponsored scholarships for aspiring educators; and offer bonus pay to those who teach special education and science, technology, engineering, and math courses.

Under her budget, the state would spend $5 million to add pre-K classrooms and $10 million to ensure that more students are reading by 3rd grade.

Martinez’s calls to boost the state’s educational outcomes didn’t stop at the classroom. She also called for more parent involvement, asking local governments and private businesses to allow leave for parent-teacher conferences. To keep more children in school and combat the state’s rising truancy and dropout rates, she wants to employ more social workers in middle schools and dropout-prevention coaches in high schools.

The governor also called for expanding existing principal- and teacher-mentorship programs that she says are turning around the state’s struggling schools.

–Corey Mitchell

Gov. Nikki Haley (R) • Jan. 20

In an address that dealt extensively with education issues, Haley pledged to overhaul outdated school facilities and bring teachers to rural districts throughout South Carolina, among other proposals.

The governor dedicated $2.5 million from her executive budget to pay for a statewide review of school facilities and to devise new, more rigorous building standards for schools. She would also set aside 1 percent of the state’s bond capacity for K-12 bonds, of up to $200 million each, to help schools update their buildings.

“Our students and our teachers deserve no less than to go to school each day in a place that is safe and clean,” she said.

Haley called for $40 million to support district technology upgrades and $13.5 million to expand the Rural Teacher Recruiting Initiative, a program to increase teacher recruitment in rural and disadvantaged school districts.

Haley also urged voters to make the state education chief a position appointed by the governor rather than elected—though that change would not take effect while she is in office.

–Sarah D. Sparks

Gov. Scott Walker (R) • Jan. 19

In his first address to lawmakers since he withdrew from his bid for the GOP presidential nomination six months ago, Walker used his State of the State address to propose increasing support for public education by rechanneling savings from cuts in state employees’ insurance plans.

The governor did not specify how he would change that insurance system—he and lawmakers have yet to settle on a plan—and he offered no immediate estimates of how much money he believes the cuts would produce.

The two-term governor has drawn frequent criticism from Democrats about what they see as inadequate support for public education during his tenure, and for his expansion of private school vouchers.

–Sean Cavanagh

A version of this article appeared in the January 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as States of the States

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