As annual state of the state addresses are delivered, governors continue to highlight key education issues, including increasing graduation rates, college and career readiness, and workforce training. This series of addresses also focused on improving education for students from low-income families, access to high-quality education programs, and the necessity of a better educated population to fuel economic growth and prosperity.
Delaware: Gov. Jack Markell Forms Student Pathways for College, Career, and Life
In his January 21 state of the state address, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) emphasized the connection between economy and education, noting that improving access to better education and training boosts the local economy. Despite employment in Delaware reaching historic highs, Markell explained, employers are struggling to find qualified workers. Markell highlighted efforts underway to match training with available jobs. Since 65 percent of jobs require a postsecondary degree or professional certificate, Markell shared his goal that by 2025, 65 percent of Delawareans will have the required degree for these positions.
Markell acknowledged several programs that are creating pathways to better prepare students for the workforce, allowing students to work directly with employers to gain the necessary skills to succeed. The Pathways to Prosperity initiative, for example, has grown to include more than 5,000 students in twenty-nine high schools, and has pathways in ten areas, including manufacturing and computer networking. Markell also discussed a focus on computer science pathways to expose more students to computer programming.
“It is our responsibility to provide Delawareans with the bridge to the life they want—workforce training for people who want to upgrade their skills; education that aligns with the knowledge they need in the new economy,” Markell said.
Markell applauded Delaware’s record high high school graduation rate and the success of the state’s college-ready students, sharing that in the last two years, all of these college-ready students have been accepted to college and nearly all have enrolled. In the past, as many as one in five had not, Markell said.
Markell addressed the need to increase access to high-quality programs and well-educated teachers for students from low-income families. “We all know that education is the great equalizer—providing the ladder from poverty to opportunity, separating the citizen from the inmate, distinguishing the vibrant thriving communities from those that seem to be forever in decline,” he said.
Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner Lays Out Specific Goals to Improve Illinois Education System
During his January 27 state of the state address, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) deemed education as the solution to better life in Illinois, saying, “The key to rising family incomes, more high-paying jobs, and a better life for everyone in Illinois, is to have a high-quality, fully-integrated education system from cradle to career, from early education, to K–12 public schools, to outstanding community colleges and universities, all the way to coordinated job training and technical training later in life.”
Rauner outlined specific goals in his address to work toward an improved education system in the state. He called for an increase in support for low-income and rural school districts to provide high-quality classrooms in communities across the state. Rauner emphasized the importance of partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and local businesses to develop training opportunities to prepare students who will not seek a postsecondary degree for a well-paying career. He discussed the development of a student growth measure to determine progress toward college and career readiness, and as an accountability system for schools. Rauner also wants more programs supporting school choice options for students from low-income families who are trapped in failing schools.
Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert Challenges Utah to Reach 90 Percent High School Graduation Rate
In his January 27 state of the state address, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) acknowledged the growth in the state’s high school graduation rate during his tenure, increasing nearly 10 percentage points to an 84 percent graduation rate. This translates to more than 3,400 additional students graduating each year. Despite the improvements, Herbert said, “I know that we can and that we must, in fact, do better.”
“I am challenging teachers, parents, principals, school board members, and most importantly, our students to raise our graduation rate in this state to 90 percent in the next four years,” Hebert said. “I pledge to you tonight that we will bring to bear the necessary resources, determination, and innovation to achieve this goal.”
Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley Shares Plan to Help More Students from Low-Income Families Get to College
During his February 2 state of the state address, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) shared his goal of getting more students from low-income families to college. Bentley discussed Alabama’s FUTURE Scholarship Plan, which begins with seventh-grade students in the state’s poorest counties, and provides tutoring, summer-help programs, college visits, and financial planning to form a clear pathway for these students to postsecondary institutions. The program may also pay for students’ two-year college tuition. “The FUTURE Scholarship Plan will not only educate and train our students, it will produce a pipeline of well-trained, well-educated talent for industries so those businesses can expand and grow,” said Bentley.
Bentley also addressed workforce training systems, which are driven by business and industry demand based on skills needed. He also noted that Alabama’s K–12 education system, postsecondary institutions, and companies will work together to “educate, and train but to also create a talent-supply chain of hardworking Alabamians to business and industries.”
In his address, Bentley discussed connectivity, noting that more than 1 million Alabamians do not have access to high-speed wireless technology. His plan would provide broadband access in rural and underserved communities, including providing infrastructure and enabling providers to deliver affordable services, stating that “promoting a robust broadband network will lead to a stronger education system.”