Just like the president gives an annual State of the Union speech, the nation’s governors present their priorities and initiatives in State of the State addresses. What are some of the trends we’re seeing with education proposals at the state level?

Education funding may be on the increase as states’ finances rebound from the deficits that were the norm during the recession. According to Governing Magazine, governors in Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah each want to make significant new investments in K-12 education. Likewise, analysts expect funding for higher education will increase, as it did last year.

Early childhood education is a priority for many governors. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, for example, proposed expanding pre-kindergarten programs, while New York governor Andrew Cuomo wants more funding for all-day kindergarten. As research builds the case that the ability to read by third grade is an indicator of future academic success, educators and policymakers sharpen their focus on early literacy. In this year’s State of the State address, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez called for not promoting students unable to read by third grade. Around 30 other states have policies designed to help students reach that learning milestone.

Some governors, like C.L. Otter from Idaho, made proposals that could touch every part of the education system. Responding to the work of a taskforce charged with improving the state’s public schools, Otter suggested that Idaho could “make the idea of ‘K-through-12”’ education obsolete. The standard for Idaho’s commitment to education excellence and workforce readiness can perhaps better be characterized as ‘K-through-Career.’”

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam made national news by proposing two free years of community or technical college for high school graduates in the state. Similar proposals have been made in Mississippi’s and Oregon’s legislatures, and Georgia governor Nathan Deal proposed a new HOPE Grant that would cover the full tuition of technical college for students maintaining a 3.5+ GPA.

With most states’ legislatures in session this spring, expect debate about the common core standards and assessments, performance funding for K-12 and higher education, and college affordability, among other pressing issues.  We’ll be following the discussions and continuing them with you on this blog. Stay tuned!

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