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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Spotlighting Speeches by Governors in Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Tennessee

“More kids will chase their dreams. More kids will grow up to be Illinois residents who work hard and contribute to society because of the DREAM Act.”

In his February 1 state of state address, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) acknowledged recent accomplishments in education, including changes in teacher evaluations that are based on defined benchmarks rather than tenure and passage of the Illinois DREAM Act, which will make scholarships, college savings, and prepaid tuition programs available to undocumented students who graduate from Illinois high schools. “In the years to come, more kids will go to college,” Quinn said. “More kids will chase their dreams. More kids will grow up to be Illinois residents who work hard and contribute to society because of the DREAM Act.”

Quinn called for a significant investment in schools through upgrading classroom facilities with modern labs, smart technology, digital books, high-speed internet access, and twenty-first-century efficiency. “We cannot leave our high school graduates unprepared to compete for the jobs of the future,” he said. “But our students won’t be prepared for college and twenty-first-century jobs if we don’t educate them in twenty-first-century schools.”

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) proposed a Mississippi Works Agenda in his state of the state address on January 24 that would include a dual-enrollment process allowing students on the verge of dropping out of school to enroll in a community college workforce-training program. “We will work to give these young adults a marketable skill and help them find jobs,” he said. “We should set an enrollment goal and get to work so Mississippians can go to work. Increasing the educational achievements of Mississippi is critical to developing our future workforce.”

During his January 31 state of the state address, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (D) hailed the state’s work to cut its dropout rate in half to 1.16 percent, crediting not just the move to increase the compulsory attendance age from sixteen to eighteen but also its investments in alternative education programs.

“While we have one of the lowest dropout rates in the nation, there was a slight up tick this year,” Lynch said. “We should reexamine recent cuts to the dropout prevention programs that help teachers keep students engaged in school. This is a fight our state can’t afford to lose. Every New Hampshire child should graduate from high school.”

Lynch warned that to compete in the future, both nationally and globally, New Hampshire will need more workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and called for an investment in STEM initiatives and courses. Lynch also called for legislation that would promote flexibility to direct more aid to communities and children with the greatest needs.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s (R) January 30 state of the state address touted improvements the state has made after lagging behind the rest of the country when it came to education results. Haslam said the state made a commitment to raising standards through the common core state standards and asking institutions of higher education to focus on graduating students through the Complete College Program. At the same time, Haslam pressed the state to do more.

“If we are going to be a state that attracts companies to locate and grow here; a state that keeps its best and brightest graduates here with good-paying, high-quality jobs … there is nothing more important we can do than to focus on education,” Haslam said. “When a plant manager in Jackson hires workers from Kentucky, and when a Chattanooga manufacturer imports workers from Georgia because both say they can’t find Tennessee graduates with strong enough skills in math and science, that is unacceptable. These are our jobs, for our graduates, and we have to get them back. We have to believe in better for our children.”

Governor Haslam was confident that Tennessee would be one of the first states to receive a waiver from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which they were. “Under the outdated federal rules, tens of thousands of hard-working teachers have been going to work every day, often leading their students to significant improvement, only to be told that their schools were failures,” Haslam said. “That is wrong, and with this waiver, we can build a Tennessee accountability system that measures growth and improvement and gives every school a chance to succeed by doing better each year.”

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.