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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Granholm and Strickland Focus on Producing Graduates Ready to Succeed After High School

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“I am proud that we are creating these educational opportunities. But it is only Michigan families themselves who can seize such opportunities and build a better future and a better state.”

For many states, the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) could not come soon enough. According to a recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), more states are reporting budget problems for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 and FY 2010 and the size of the gaps has increased since NCSL’s November 2008 budget report. The latest report finds that forty-three states reported budget deficits for FY 2009, while thirty-four states are projecting budget deficits for FY 2010 that total $84.3 billion.

Michigan: Granholm Hopes to Put Every Michigan Student on the Path to Additional Education After High School

In her state of the state address on February 3Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) announced a state-recovery “battle plan” that is focused on “three things that matter most,” namely good-paying jobs, education and training, and protecting families during the financial crisis. She explained that the money from the stimulus bill would help Michigan move ahead, but warned that she would not allow the money to be used on “bigger government.”

Instead, Granholm reviewed some of the recent education reforms that Michigan has undertaken to meet its goal of doubling the number of college graduates in the state and announced smaller proposals to help ensure that every student is prepared for college, can afford college, and knows how to apply.

“Today, we are doing more in Michigan to make training and education available to citizens than at any time in our history,” she said. “I am proud that we are creating these educational opportunities. But it is only Michigan families themselves who can seize such opportunities and build a better future and a better state.”

To ensure that students are prepared to succeed in college or technical training, Michigan requires all students to take a rigorous curriculum in high school and take a college entrance exam (the cost of the exam is free). Additionally, the state has a plan underway to replace high schools that do not work with smaller, more rigorous ones that do. Over the next year, the state expects to create twenty-five new rigorous high schools to not only keep kids in school but, as the governor said, “put them on the path to success in college and careers.”

And to help get all Michigan students on the path to education after high school, Granholm announced the Michigan College Access Network, which will be launched at the Governor’s Education Summit in April. It will bring together foundations, business and labor organizations, the faith-based community, K–12 schools, and higher education institutions to ensure that every young person in Michigan—along with his or her parents—know how to plan for, apply for, and pay for a college education or technical training.

Granholm also announced that ten of Michigan’s high-poverty communities will create “promise zones” that will guarantee a free college education to children in those communities to “spur greatness in our kids and economic development in those communities.” This new program is in addition to the Michigan Promise Scholarship program, which allows for every Michigan high school graduate to be eligible for a $4,000 scholarship to help pay for college.

Ohio: Strickland Proposes Extensive Education Reforms

In his state of the state address on January 28Governor Ted Strickland (D) said that he will use $3.4 billion from the stimulus bill to help balance his budget, but added that he will continue making investments that are “critical” to Ohio’s economy and its future, even with an “austere” budget. “We must focus our energies and resources on the programs most vital to our future prosperity,” Strickland said. “First on that list is education.”

Indeed, Strickland spent the majority of his speech outlining an “evidence-based” plan to rebuild Ohio’s education system. Among the ideas he proposed were adding twenty instructional days over ten years to the school calendar to bring the state up to the international average of two hundred days, universal all-day kindergarten, a longer learning day for all students, and enhanced intervention services in schools with high dropout rates. He also announced a residency plan in which new teachers would earn their professional teaching license after a four-year residency. “Just as future doctors begin their careers under the watchful eye of an experienced colleague, we will give our new teachers the benefit of thoughtful guidance from an accomplished senior teacher,” he said.

On top of the residency program, Strickland would add a career ladder that allows teachers to work up to a “lead teacher,” who will have additional responsibilities and play an active role in overseeing new teachers. The plan would also include collaborative planning time, mentoring, coaching, and peer review, and would also give administrators the power to dismiss a teacher for good cause. To help recruit more individuals to the teaching profession, Strickland would create a path to licensure for professionals, and provide scholarships to teachers who agree to teach in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. He would also reward state universities that do the best job of preparing their students for success as teachers.

Strickland also proposed eliminating the Ohio Graduation Test and replacing it with the ACT, statewide end-of-course exams, a service learning project, and a senior project. “These four measures will give our graduating high school seniors the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, creativity, and problem-solving skills, in short, to demonstrate precisely the skills that will help them succeed in life,” he said.

To help pay for these new initiatives, Strickland proposed overhauling Ohio’s school funding system by increasing the state’s share of the cost to 55 percent in the current two-year budget period and eventually growing it to 59 percent. “We will graduate Ohioans ready to succeed in the modern economy and in modern life,” he said. “Future generations will look back gratefully and say that when we came together on education, we claimed this new century for Ohio.”

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.