In the latest round of state of the state addresses, the nation’s governors continue to boost funding for education and restore funding that was cut during the Great Recession. At the same time, governors are looking forward and proposing new ways to bring technology into the classroom while also ensuring that recent high school graduates are prepared to succeed in college or work.
Rhode Island: Chafee Pledges Additional $38 Million for K–12
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (D) pledged an additional $38 million in general support for K–12 public education in his January 15 state of the state address and stressed the need for aiding struggling and low-income students.
“If you accept the funding levels I have proposed, we will have dedicated an additional $189.8 million to public education in Rhode Island over my four budgets,” Chafee said. “There is no better or smarter investment we can make. It will pay dividends and help close an equality gap that threatens our future.”
Chafee also focused attention on closing the skills gap in the state. There are jobs to be had in Rhode Island, he noted, but students are entering the workforce without the skills necessary for them. To address this mismatch, he proposed a targeted investment in workforce training that will serve two purposes: helping the unemployed find jobs and meeting the needs of employers.
“Education has always been the great equalizer,” Chafee said. “No matter where you start, if you get access to a good education and work hard, you can succeed.”
Alaska: Parnell Emphasizes Digital Learning, Technical Education
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell (R) unveiled a host of education initiatives in his January 22 state of the state address. He focused his reforms on increasing technology in the classroom, eliminating unnecessary standardized tests, and improving technical education. He dubbed 2014 the “education season.”
In December, Parnell announced a $5 million digital teaching initiative that he expanded on in his address. The Alaska Digital Teaching Initiative, he promised, will give students access to high-quality teachers and instruction. The funding will provide for technology that makes it possible for teachers to video conference with remote schools and teach in real time.
“We must recognize our students need twenty-first-century classrooms to compete in a twenty-first-century economy,” Parnell said.
Parnell also proposed repealing and replacing the state’s high school graduation exam. He called the assessment a measurement of outdated standards and called for it to be replaced with the SAT or ACT.
“Today’s qualifying exam does not measure readiness to graduate or college- and career-training preparedness,” Parnell said. “In its place, I propose high school students take either the SAT, ACT, or WorkKeys test within two years of their expected graduation date. The first test they take would be at the state’s expense. Rather than a high-stakes test of limited value, we will have better information from these tests, and they will open the door to a young person’s postsecondary education and job training.”
Finally, Parnell advocated for a stronger emphasis on career and technical education (CTE) in high schools. He called these programs “strong pathways to success,” saying that “students excel when they find a subject that inspires them.” He proposed improving CTE programs by expanding dual-credit options, which allow students to receive simultaneous credits toward high school graduation and a certification in a career field.
Missouri: Nixon “Will Not Support Anything” that Takes Money out of Schools
“We must work to help every child start school ready to learn. We must demand that every school is getting the job done. And, we must make sure that every student can afford to get a college degree,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) in his January 21 state of the state address, which focused extensively on improving education in the state.
In his Fiscal Year 2015 budget, Nixon plans to nearly triple funding for the Missouri Preschool Program and pledges an additional $278 million for K–12 education. Among his goals for the additional funding are recruiting the “best and brightest” teachers and increasing technology access in classrooms.
“In today’s global economy, whether you root for the DeSoto Dragons, the Sikeston Bulldogs, or the Mound City Panthers, our K–12 schools must also be rigorous, high-tech institutions of innovation,” Nixon said. “More technology. Smaller class sizes. Well-prepared teachers. The tools our kids need to succeed.”
Nixon passionately defended his commitment to education reform. Referencing economic data that ties high school dropout rates to increased unemployment and lower incomes, he called for increased accountability in schools.
From preschool to graduate school, Nixon’s budget includes a total of an additional $493 million for education. “I will not support anything that takes money out of our classrooms,” Nixon said.
In exchange for the increased funding, Nixon said the state would “demand accountability and measurable results,” including tougher classes, higher test scores, and higher graduation rates.
New Mexico: Martinez Wants to See Return on State’s Education Investment
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) wants to see a tangible return on the state’s education investment. In her January 21 state of the state address, Martinez pledged an additional $100 million for education, and she wants to see it makes a difference.
“We should expect a return on our education dollars, and that return should be student achievement—our kids reading at a higher level, our students graduating at a higher rate,” Martinez said.
Martinez also focused on the need to match individuals with jobs and proposed expanding the state’s early college high schools to create a workforce for local small businesses. “By their nature, these schools are designed to produce employable workers—high school students, who intern with local businesses, graduate with a diploma, job-ready certificates, and an associate’s degree,” she said.
With the additional funding in her budget, education spending in New Mexico now exceeds pre-recession levels, Martinez proudly noted. She called for the additional funds to be directed toward struggling students, low-performing schools, rewarding effective teachers, and increasing parental involvement. She particularly championed teachers by encouraging an increase in professional development and pledging $8.5 million to improve teacher training. To increase parental involvement, Martinez proposed an expansion of “parent portals,” which are websites where parents can easily monitor their student’s progress—and attendance—in school.