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STATE OF THE STATES: Governors Prioritize International Competitiveness, Innovation, Graduation Rates, and Vocational Education

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“I went into classrooms where children were studying concepts far in advance of American children of similar ages. They demand more work out of their kids. They require more involvement from parents. They expect no less than excellence from their students and teachers and parents and schools. Education in China is a major part of the reason their workers are global competitors.”

North Carolina: Perdue Calls for Investing in Education

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue (D) delivered her state of the state address on February 14, joking that some people had accused her of ruining Valentine’s Day for their significant other. During her speech, she stressed the importance of education in preparing students to compete with their international peers in today’s global economy.

Reflecting on a recent trip to China, the governor said, “I went into classrooms where children were studying concepts far in advance of American children of similar ages. They demand more work out of their kids. They require more involvement from parents. They expect no less than excellence from their students and teachers and parents and schools. Education in China is a major part of the reason their workers are global competitors.”

Although the state is facing a $2.4 billion deficit, the governor called for investing in education and promised that her proposed budget would fund every current state-supported teacher and teaching assistant position. In an effort to move more students through the education pipeline, she proposed a scholarship program that would allow qualifying high school juniors to earn a two-year college degree at no cost.

Perdue took pride in the state’s virtual public school and its enrollment of 46,000 students. She also spoke highly of the “Career and College—Ready, Set, Go!” initiative and explained how it had played an important role in securing $400 million from the federal Race to the Top competition.

Oklahoma: Fallin Supports Public-Private Partnership to Spur Innovation

“There is nothing more important to our future and our long-term prosperity than education,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R), during her state of the state address on February 7. “It is the cornerstone of a prosperous society.”

During her speech, the governor talked at length about education and discussed her work with the state superintendent to develop a public-private partnership where private money would match state dollars to fund innovative learning programs designed to enhance student performance and close achievement gaps.

Fallin asked the legislature to send her a bill eliminating “trial de novo,” a practice that guarantees tenured teachers the right to appeal a school board’s termination to the district court for a new trial. In the midst of tough budget times, the governor recommended that schools restructure their budgets with the goal of sending more money directly to the classrooms and less to overhead and administrative costs. She also expressed her support for using more electronic textbooks, reducing remediation rates, and developing more sophisticated student-tracking databases.

Texas: Perry Concentrates on Improving High School Graduation Rate

During his state of the state address on February 8, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) called for a number of initiatives aimed at improving Texas’s high school and college graduation rates. He suggested requiring high school enrollment as a prerequisite to allowing students to get their driver’s license. The governor also recommended offering employers a $1,500 tax incentive for every employee who earns their diploma or GED after being granted two hours a week of paid leave to study or go to class. For colleges and universities, he suggested implementing outcomes-based funding, which is a funding stream based on the number of degrees an institution awards.

The governor focused on expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academies and the state’s Virtual School Network, in particular adding high school classes so that students across the state would have access to courses their schools might not offer. Perry challenged Texas’s institutions of higher education to develop bachelor’s degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks.

“Let’s leverage web-based instruction, innovative teaching techniques, and aggressive efficiency measures to reach that goal,” Perry said. “Imagine the potential impact on affordability and graduation rates, and the number of skilled workers it would send into our economy.”

He thanked policymakers for their leadership in increasing accountability in schools, saying, “The quality of education in our state is getting better and better preparing hardworking Texans to apply their legendary work ethic and provide for their families.”

Perry pointed out that the state’s share of public education spending had increased by 82 percent over the past decade, from $11 billion to $20 billion in 2009. However, he called for school districts to reduce their expenses in these tight budgetary times.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.