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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Governors Agree on Importance of Math and Science to Future Productivity

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"I don't view this session as a fight between tax relief and more money for education … or between education and saving for a rainy day … or between saving for a rainy day and securing our economic future through investments in new energy resources."

In keeping with a theme raised by President Bush in his State of the Union address, many governors across the country also spoke about the need for more math and science graduates in their state of the state addresses. Teacher retention and recruitment and helping students pay for college tuition were also popular subjects.

Delaware

Citing marks on Education Week’s report card on education and fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress that were among the highest in the nation, Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D) said she was “extremely pleased” and “very proud” of the progress her state has made in education, but cautioned that Maryland “cannot afford to relax [its] education efforts.”

In her state of the state address on January 19, Governor Minner called for continuing a program that would place a math specialist in every Delaware middle school. Created to prevent struggling middle school students from falling behind in math, the program placed 22 specialists in middle schools last year. Minner proposed to add 10 additional specialists in 2006.

She also pledged to raise awareness about Delaware’s Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) scholarship program. Beginning with this year’s high school seniors, students who graduate from Delaware high schools with at least a 2.5 grade-point average and no felony convictions are eligible to receive a 2-year college degree tuition free. Students must be enrolled full time in an associate’s degree program at Delaware Technical & Community College (DTCC) or the Associate of Arts program at the University of Delaware.

Hawaii

Saying that the projected $574 million projected surplus will allow Hawaiians to “literally have it all,” Governor Linda Lingle (R) proposed an increase of $132.5 million for K 12 public education in addition to a series of tax reductions.

“I don’t view this session as a fight between tax relief and more money for education … or between education and saving for a rainy day … or between saving for a rainy day and securing our economic future through investments in new energy resources,” she said.

In discussing education priorities in her state of the state address on January 23, Lingle said that approximately $90 million of the $132.5 million increase in education spending would go toward school construction, repairs, and maintenance. She also called for immediate attention to Hawaii’s “severe” teacher shortage and proposed four new laws to address it.

First, she would allow retired teachers to return to the profession without losing their retirement benefits if they taught in “difficult to fill classroom positions.” Secondly, she would create an emergency certified teacher program that would allow individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher to teach in the subject in which they majored if they complete a substitute teacher training program. She also called for a master teacher program that would pay a $10,000 bonus annual to any of the 111 National Board Certified teachers who agree to teach for 3 years in an underperforming school and mentor other teachers. Finally, Lingle would use $500,000 to reestablish the Hawaii Educator Loan Program, and reduce the amount of time to qualify for tuition loan forgiveness from 10 to 6 years.

Maine

In his state of the state address on January 17, Governor John Baldacci (D) proposed $3 million in additional funding for high-performing small schools, a higher beginning salary for beginning teachers, and an additional $500,000 to allow high school students to enroll in college-level courses.

“People are the most important resource in my economic plan,” Baldacci said. “We are moving toward a knowledge-based economy. In that economy, Maine people are our new economic engines. Today we have more people in our community colleges, more investments in research and development, and more technology for businesses and people. We are getting our children ready for school with early child care, increasing the number of students in college with loans, and training our adult workers with new skills and creativity.”

Michigan

In light of recent announcements by Ford and General Motors that they will cut tens of thousands of jobs over the next few years, it was no surprise that Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) focused on education and job creation in her state of the state address on January 25.

To help to make college affordable for Michigan families, Granholm pushed for a new $4,000 merit scholarship for every child in Michigan who enrolls in postsecondary education. In addition, to help prepare students for college, she called for a required core curriculum for all Michigan high school students and more afterschool programs that would provide sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will more time to learn math, science, and computer technology and prepare them for a more rigorous high school curriculum.

“Right now in Michigan, we require only one course for our high school graduates: a single semester of civics,” she said. “Only one third of the students who graduate from our high schools right now have taken the math, science, and communication courses we know they’ll need to compete in our new economy.”

New Hampshire

In his state of the state address on January 18, Governor John Lynch (D) made it clear that he expects every high school student to graduate from high school.

“Last year an estimated 2,300 of our students dropped out of high school,” he said. “We must make it clear to our young people that we are not going to give up on them, or let them give up on themselves. We must change the law and require our children to stay in school until age 18. Education is the key to opportunity for our children, our families, and our state. The demands of a changing economy require a highly skilled and educated workforce.”

Recognizing that simply forcing students to stay in school does not necessarily equate to receiving a diploma, Lynch announced that he would hold a statewide summit in the spring to focus on strategies for keeping kids in school. The summit will focus on alternative programs, vocational high schools, internships, night programs, and the role of community colleges.

New Mexico

In what he called his “Year of the Child Agenda,” Governor Bill Richardson (D) outlined a long list of proposals in his state of the state address on January 17 to ensure that all children can “grow up healthy, attend world-class schools, go to a good college, get a good-paying job, and raise their family in New Mexico.”

Because many kids begin kindergarten already behind their classmates, Richardson proposed expanding access to pre-kindergarten by doubling the funding to serve nearly 3,000 kids statewide. He also advocated for a 6 percent pay increase for all teachers and instructional personnel to help recruit and retain more quality teachers. He cited a lack of parental involvement as a “glaring weakness” and sought to break down the barriers between parents and schools.

For high schools, Richardson called for a “new commitment” to match high school curricula with college entrance exams. “The tests to get out of high school should match the tests to get into college,” he said. He also supported continued development and support of career technical centers and vocational charter high schools for students whose career path might not include college but need technical training and 21st-century career skills.

“After all,” Richardson asked, “what is more pro-business and entrepreneurial than preparing a whole generation of kids to succeed and prosper 5, 10, or 20 years from now?”

Ohio

In his state of the state address on January 25, Governor Bob Taft (R) called for a more rigorous core curriculum in high schools to better prepare high school students for success on the job and in college, and reduce college remediation rates.

“Unfortunately, we also know that in Ohio too few high school graduates are prepared for college or a well-paying job,” he said. “The evidence is overwhelming that when it comes to our high school students, it’s not just about graduation. It’s about preparation. Only one in three of Ohio’s high school graduates have the skills they need to succeed in a good entry-level job, an apprenticeship, the military, or in college.”

Under Taft’s proposal, all students would have to take 4 years of math, including Algebra II; 3 years of science, including biology, chemistry, and physics; 3 years of social studies; and at least 2 years of a foreign language. The new requirements would apply to students beginning with the graduating class of 2011. In addition, students would be required to complete the core curriculum as a condition of admission to Ohio’s public 4-year colleges and universities. Students who needed remediation at the college level would have to take classes at Ohio’s 2-year campuses. Taft would also give students a “college and work-ready assessment” in their junior year to see if they will graduate with the skills they need in college and the workforce. Finally, to measure how well high schools are preparing students, the state would add an indicator to the school’s report card.

“For too many, a high school diploma is not a passport to success, but rather a broken promise,” Taft said. “The world has raised the bar, and we must act to raise the bar for high school graduation. It’s time to require all high school students to take a more rigorous core curriculum.”

To help students with college tuition, Taft would give every high school student in good academic standing to earn at least one semester of college credit while in high school. He also called for tuition incentives to help increase the number of math, science, technology, and engineering graduates, as well as the number of math and science teachers.

Wisconsin

In his state of the state address on January 17, Governor Jim Doyle (D) introduced the Wisconsin Covenant, a new plan to encourage college enrollment and raise achievement in elementary and secondary education. He called the program a “historic commitment to make college more affordable for hardworking Wisconsin families … while giving high school students an incentive to succeed in the classroom.”

Under his plan, any eighth-grade student with some financial need can enroll in the program. By signing the covenant, the student would pledge to maintain a B average in high school, complete a specified core curriculum, and apply for state and federal financial aid. A student who meets these requirements will receive a financial aid package that meets their full financial need for tuition at any University of Wisconsin system school. While neediest students would receive grants to pay their college costs, those at slightly higher incomes would receive a mix of loan subsidies, grants, and work study.

Governor Doyle also renewed his call for the state legislature to pass his proposal to make a third year of math and a third year of science mandatory for high school graduation. “When a student gets a diploma in Wisconsin, it should really mean something,” he said.

Footnotes:
1) From the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal year 2007 budget summary: “Department discretionary spending in fiscal year 2006 included $1.6 billion in education assistance to areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Reconciliation bill would change the funding of student aid administrative costs from mandatory to discretionary in 2007. Taking into account these one-time changes, the president’s 2007 discretionary request for education would be a decline of $2.1 billion, or 3.8 percent, from the comparable 2006 level.”

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.