Connecticut: Malloy Outlines Five-Step Plan to Improve Education
“We know the best way to increase someone’s chances for success is a quality education,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) said early in his February 6 state of the state address, which focused on education more than any other topic.
During his speech, Malloy outlined five ideas spanning early education through college to ensure that every student has access to a quality education. First, he emphasized the need for universal pre-kindergarten for all children and pledged an additional 1,200 early childhood education opportunities next year, expanding to 4,000 by 2019.
Second, he announced a college savings plan for every child born or adopted in Connecticut to help make college more affordable. Under the plan, the state would help parents start a tax-free savings account with $100 in it. If parents add $150 to it within the first four year’s of the child’s life, the state will match that number for a total state investment of $250.
Malloy’s third idea to improve education is a public-private partnership to increase the number of Connecticut’s high school graduates that are ready for college and a career. The state will partner with IBM Corporation and other local companies to expand dual enrollment opportunities for high schools, allowing students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
Fourth, Malloy pledged an initial investment of $134 million in an initiative called “Transform Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) 2020” that would bring all seventeen state college and university campuses into a “single, student-centered, technology-rich” system.
Finally, Malloy discussed the need for Connecticut to graduate more students from college. He proposed a “Go Back and Get Ahead” program that would offer students who dropped out of college more than 18 months ago one free course for each course they take at a public college for up to four courses. The caveat? They have to finish their degree.
“I want to work with you on these five initiatives,” Malloy told state legislators, “because years from now, when the Great Recession is a distant memory, long-after the political battles of this year have faded, this should be our legacy: that we made sure all Connecticut kids get a great education, one that starts early and takes them as far as their dreams and hard work will allow.”
Delaware: Markell Prioritizes Teachers
Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D) announced a pilot program that would give a handful of school leaders flexibility to spend a portion of their state funding in implementing their own school improvement plans in his January 23 state of the state address. This program is part of Markell’s focus on prioritizing educator opinions and experiences in improving Delaware’s K–12 education system.
Markell also announced that the Delaware Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Council will partner with local business to give financial rewards to the state’s best STEM teachers and help them share effective teaching strategies. In addition, Markell is looking at ways to give teachers additional compensation for pursuing leadership opportunities while remaining in the classroom.
“The magic of education happens with our teachers,” Markell said.
Markell emphasized the need for more students to be prepared for college and twenty-first-century jobs after high school. “Before the end of the decade, 60 percent of our jobs will require training beyond high school,” Markell said. “And yet, only 20 percent of our kids graduate from high school ready for college or a career.”
Markell proposed a scholarship program that targets low-income, high-achieving students who often do not apply to or finish college because of financial circumstances. The scholarship would allow these students to take credit-bearing courses during their senior year of high school.
To further remedy the jobs-skills gap in Delaware, Markell announced a new two-year comprehensive manufacturing program for high school juniors and seniors that offer mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering classes. Students who complete the program will receive a nationally recognized manufacturing certificate, as well as a “real-world” opportunity to learn in the field during the summer between their junior and senior years.
Oklahoma: Fallin Says Education Beyond High School Is the “New Minimum” for Success
“Improving the quality and outcomes in education is the single most important thing we can do to attract and retain jobs, alleviate poverty, and help Oklahomans have fulfilling and productive lives,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) in her February 3 state of the state address. “Here’s a fact: the best indicator of personal income is educational attainment. Similarly, the best predictor of social problems like drug use, teen pregnancy, and crime is educational attainment.”
To achieve the kind of success she wants to see in her state’s education system, Fallin began by addressing the need for better safety in schools. She announced a one-time increase in bonding capacity for school districts to fund upgrades like storm shelters, safe rooms, and protections against threats like intruders.
Fallin also announced an additional $50 million in funds to help K–12 schools graduate more students from high school ready for college and a career, and an A–F grading system for schools so that students, parents, and teachers know how any given school is doing at a glance.
“Today in Oklahoma, only one-third of all jobs are available to those with just an academic high school diploma or less,” Fallin remarked. “The ‘new minimum’ for success is education beyond high school. Many Oklahomans are falling short of this new minimum. That’s not just a problem; it’s a crisis.”
To further address the crisis, Fallin praised the new, higher standards that Oklahoma will implement in K–12 schools this year. The new standards, she said, will ensure that Oklahoma graduates more high school seniors who are ready for college and a career. She emphasized that while the state has adopted common standards, it will not tell teachers how to teach lessons or what books to use; “those are decisions that will always be made locally,” Fallin said.
Utah: Herbert Increases Teacher Compensation Fund by $61.6 Million
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) called attention to the state’s fast-growing student population, which creates a major funding demand, in his January 29 state of the state address. “It costs us $70 million per year in additional money just to pay for our new students,” he said.
Herbert pledged to do what he can to improve the state’s education system, starting with enhancing accountability in schools through school “report cards” that will allow parents, students, and teachers to know how a school is doing at a glance.
Herbert pledged an additional $4.5 million to the state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Action Center. In addition, he announced a public-private partnership to recruit students into STEM fields.
Other funding increases included $2 million to improve high school career counseling and $61.6 million to increase teacher compensation, the largest increase since 2008.
“We must continue to align classroom instruction with changing workforce needs, so our high school graduates are ready for college and the workplace,” Herbert said.