April 12, 2016
I write from the nation’s capital, where our Colorado Education Policy Fellowship Program is taking part in EPFP’s annual national conference. One of the main benefits for our Fellows is the chance to talk with many of the 320 Fellows gathered here from the 15 other EPFP states/chapters. As much as our states differ, we do wrestle with many of the same education policies. During our year together our eight Fellows have explored several of Colorado’s major policy issues. This week they will have the chance to share stories with and learn from colleagues active in education and policy in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, and from the EPFP chapter in Washington D.C.
Attending a national conference like this, escaping our too-narrow perspective, listening to and learning from other states—it can make us both thankful, and perhaps a bit envious. I cannot ask you to join us this week—sorry! trees in bloom, under gray skies this morning— but you might be amused, intrigued, and/or troubled to take a quick spin across the country with me, noting what many Governors had to say on education in their State of the State addresses this past winter. As Coloradans, we could say, in some cases: Phew, compared to that state, we’re lucky we’re not in THAT kind of trouble. However, more than a few times we might say: Darn, I wish we could hear our governor say that!
(Source—Unless in brackets, all words are from Education Week’s summaries of the speeches given in January and February by 41 governors, from the issues of Jan. 20, Jan 27, Feb. 10, Feb 17, and Feb. 24.)
For comparison purposes, on the final page here, I quote from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Jan. 14 speech at the state Capitol. Colorado’s highest elected official on education, the largest item in the state budget. Inspiring? Specific? Perhaps you too will be jealous when you turn to page 2 here and see ….
I’m glad we’re not …. or, IT COULD BE WORSE!
First, if it makes us feel any better, we can be glad we’re not Connecticut, Louisiana, or Pennsylvania, and relieved we do not (yet) have a district in the same crisis as Chicago or Detroit. Not nice, but a reminder for the second half of this newsletter—when envy rears its ugly head—that IT COULD BE WORSE!
CONNECTICUT - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) • Feb. 3
The state has to face "new economic realities," and that means making budget reductions to reflect lower revenue projections, the governor told state legislators as he introduced a budget aimed at closing a $570 million deficit. … The proposed state budget adjustment from the governor's office would cut $52.9 million from the $1.8 billion that had been allotted to the education department. About $3.6 million would be pared from the state's $116 million budget for the early-childhood office.
ILLINOIS - Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) • Jan. 27
Last month, Rauner and several Republican legislators proposed a bill that would allow the state to take over the financially struggling Chicago school system. Most notably, the bill would allow the district to declare bankruptcy and establish that the state would not be liable for the school district's debt.*
[*“It has a $1 billion long-term deficit and recently borrowed $725 million at high interest rates to keep running until the end of the school year.” Education Week, 2/24/16.]
LOUISIANA - Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) • Feb. 12
With Louisiana facing a $940 million deficit this fiscal year and a shortfall of nearly $2 billion next year, the freshman governor used his first State of the State speech to focus on steps to put the state’s finances back on track and outline the consequences of not doing so.
MICHIGAN - Gov. Rick Snyder (R) • Jan. 19
The contrite governor spent most of his address to the legislature outlining solutions to a water crisis in Flint …. But Snyder also talked about the ongoing educational crisis in the Detroit public schools, which are being overseen by an emergency manager who was once in charge of managing the fiscally troubled city of Flint. … As now structured, the Detroit district has $515 million in operating debts, and managers have warned it could go bankrupt this spring if its obligations are not restructured.
From EDUCATION TRENDS, a summary by ECS of state-of-state addresses. It listed the top 7 priorities for governors in 2016. The top two:
School Finance: As states continue to bring funding back to pre-recession levels, new investments in K-12 education were highlighted by at least 21 governors.
Teaching Quality – Compensation, Recruitment and Retention: At least 16 governors are focused on ensuring that high-quality teachers are recruited, retained and better compensated.
PENNSYLVANIA - Gov. Tom Wolf (D) • Feb. 9
… Wolf berated Pennsylvania lawmakers for being
more than 200 days late—and counting—in passing a version of his first budget…. "We are sitting at the bottom of a $2 billion hole. It is simply unbelievable that some folks in this chamber want to keep digging.” … If lawmakers don't approve a balanced budget for the current fiscal year, Wolf warned, local property taxes will skyrocket, while teachers and programs will be slashed.
On the other hand, I am jealous to hear … or, CAN’T WE DO BETTER?
1) I am jealous to hear the amount of additional funding governors intend to commit to education:
ARIZONA - Gov. Doug Ducey (R) • Jan. 11
Ducey used his second annual address to promote Proposition 123, his education-funding ballot initiative that would add $3.5 billion to K-12 public education over the next decade. If voters approve the proposal in May, it would resolve a 5-year-old lawsuit over school underfunding.
CALIFORNIA - Gov. Jerry Brown (D) • Jan. 21
California would pour $72 billion into its K-14 budget in fiscal year 2017, up from $47 billion in the fiscal 2011 budget—when Gov. Brown was new in the office—under a proposal Brown described to lawmakers in his annual address, saying that much of that money will go to districts to spend on low-income students, those in foster care and English-language learners.
FLORIDA - Gov. Rick Scott (R) • Jan. 12
… Scott has proposed investing $91 million more into the state's K-12 school system next year, mostly by using increased revenue from the state's property tax. That's on top of the $13 billion put into K-12 in the current 2016 fiscal year.
IDAHO - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) • Jan. 11
The governor made education the cornerstone of his speech, calling for a 7.9 percent increase in K-12 funding, bringing it to nearly $1.6 billion for the state's 291,000 public school students in fiscal 2017.
IOWA - Gov. Terry Branstad (R) • Jan. 12
Even in what he called a "tight" budget year, the Republican governor is pushing for an increase in pre-K-12 funding of more than $145 million….
MISSOURI - Gov. Jay Nixon (D) • Jan. 20
… the governor said he has budgeted $150 million more for public schools this year than the $4.46 billion allocated for 2015-16. His budget proposal also represents an investment of $400 million more in the K-12 foundation formula than when he took office in 2009. This "record funding" includes dollars earmarked for the foundation formula, special education, transportation, and struggling school districts.
I believe in the promise of education and its potential to serve as the doorway to opportunity. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, N.Y., D.
NEW YORK - Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) • Jan. 13
Cuomo is proposing that the state spend $25 billion on educating the state's students in the two-year, fiscal 2016 and 2017 budget cycle, an increase of $2.1 billion over those two years.
RHODE ISLAND - Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) • Feb. 2
Her $1.35 billion K-12 budget request, an increase of2.5 percent from fiscal 2016, also would require each school to make its budget publicly available online.
TENNESSEE - Gov. Bill Haslam (R) • Feb. 1
Touting education investment as "the smartest thing we can do for economic development," Haslam
dedicated the bulk of his State of the State speech to reflecting on the state's higher education and K-12 progress and proposing "the largest investment in K-12 education in Tennessee's history without a tax increase." Haslam proposed $4.8 billion for K-12 and $1.7 billion for higher education in state funding in fiscal 2016-17.
WASHINGTON - Gov. Jay Inslee (D) • Jan. 12
Inslee also praised the bipartisan work lawmakers did last session to increase education spending in the state's 2015-17 biennial budget by $1.3 billion, but he said more needs to be done.
2) I am jealous to hear so many governors focus on teachers and the teaching profession:
DELAWARE - Gov. Jack Markell (D) • Jan. 21
… the governor lauded the growth in Delaware's high school graduation rates… The governor gave much of the credit for those accomplishments to Delaware's teachers, whom he vowed to continue to support by working to raise their salaries, pilot teacher-leadership programs, and provide stipends for those with national-board certification. "One of the best things we can do to ensure the prosperity of the generation to follow is to ensure our children have great teachers today."
GEORGIA - Gov. Nathan Deal (R) • Jan. 13
… Deal told lawmakers he would budget for a 3 percent raise for teachers across the state. The governor said he wants to devote an additional $300 million to K-12 education, money that would flow to Georgia's school districts. He said he expects that individual districts would use that money to support teachers' raises at the amount he targeted.
IDAHO - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R)
He would devote $38 million to continue implementing the state's teacher career ladder, and about $1.8 million to move non-instructional school staff like counselors, nurses, and speech pathologists onto it. That ladder, based on specific student success measures, "is essential to attracting and retaining the best teachers for Idaho schools." Otter asked for an investment of $5 million for professionals to mentor new teachers.
IOWA - Gov. Terry Branstad (R)
The funding increase would include the state's third installment in what Branstad called "our extraordinary commitment to teacher leadership and compensation." For the past couple years, Iowa has been investing in the "Teacher Leadership and Compensation System," which … focuses on helping high-flying educators serve as instructional leaders. The Hawkeye State has been gradually expanding the program to its 300-plus districts. Right now, the program is in more than 100 districts.
INDIANA - Gov. Mike Pence (R) – Jan. 12
Pence also said he supports a proposed scholarship program proposed by the Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma that would cover up to $7,500 in annual tuition for students who graduate in the top 20 percent of their class and commit to teaching in the state for at least five years.
NEW MEXICO - Gov. Susana Martinez (R) • Jan. 19
…Martinez touted proposals to strengthen and support the state's teaching corps. … To recruit, retain, and reward educators, Martinez wants legislators to raise the minimum starting-teacher salary to $36,000, a $2,000 increase; expand the state's loan-repayment program; award more state-sponsored scholarships [$15,000] for aspiring educators; and offer bonus pay to those who teach special education and science, technology, engineering, and math courses. The governor also called for expanding existing principal- and teacher-mentorship programs that she says are turning around the state's struggling schools.
OKLAHOMA - Gov. Mary Fallin (R) • Feb. 1
… the governor outlined for legislators her proposal to give teachers a $3,000 pay raise next year. The move would cost the state $178 million.… In 2014, the state's superintendents began complaining about a teacher shortage. A task force concluded that Oklahoma offers teacher pay that is among the lowest in the region, with starting teachers making $31,600.
SOUTH CAROLINA - Gov. Nikki Haley (R) – Jan. 20
Haley called for … $13.5 million to expand the Rural Teacher Recruiting Initiative, a program to increase teacher recruitment in rural and disadvantaged school districts.
SOUTH DAKOTA - Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) – Jan. 12
An extended call to improve pay for South Dakota teachers, currently the lowest-paid in the country, was the focus of Daugaard's sixth State of the State address. Through a proposed new half-cent sales tax, he seeks to raise more than $100 million annually, most of which would be used to bump the state's average teacher salary [from $40,000] to $48,500. "If South Dakota wants to maintain high student achievement, we need a new generation of high-quality teachers. We are not going to get them unless we become more competitive with surrounding states," especially Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
Think about the teachers who continually rise to the challenges their students might bring through the door every day. Teachers and students are doing more than ever before, and their achievement must be recognized. Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee (R)
TENNESSEE - Gov. Bill Haslam (R) • Feb. 1
[Part of his proposed $4.8 billion for K-12 includes] $105 million for teachers' salaries, and $30 million to provide year-round health insurance for teachers, rather than 11 months’.
WASHINGTON - Gov. Jay Inslee (D)
Among the priorities Inslee outlined for the 2016 legislative session is addressing the state's teacher shortage. To recruit the additional 7,000 teachers Washington state needs, the governor proposed raising starting salaries, instituting minimum annual raises for all teachers, and investing more in mentoring programs.
3) I am jealous to hear so many governors focus on our youngest students, especially their reading skills:
ALABAMA - Gov. Robert Bentley (R) • Feb. 2
The governor is also pushing to expand the state's First Class preschool program. Ideally, over the next three years, Bentley would like to give every interested parent the chance to enroll his or her 4-year-old in the program. "Children who attend pre-K are more likely to read at grade level quicker, their math scores are higher, and they are less likely to need special education services. We know this program works, we've seen the statistics, but more importantly, we've seen the results in the lives of our students."
IDAHO - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R)
Reading proficiency also received attention, with Otter pledging $10.7 million for interventions to support K-3 students who need support.
NEW MEXICO - Gov. Susana Martinez (R)
Martinez touted proposals to … add more prekindergarten classrooms around the state, and spend more money on reading interventions to boost student literacy. … Under her budget, the state would spend $5 million to add pre-K classrooms and $10 million to ensure that more students are reading by 3rd grade.
4) I am jealous to hear so many governors speak of support for charter schools:
MASSACHUSETTS - Gov. Charlie Baker (R) • Jan. 29
Lawmakers should lift the state's cap on charter schools, Baker told them in his annual address [nearly 37,000 students are on waiting lists]…. Massachusetts currently limits charter schools to 120.
Charters in Colorado – reason to be glad we’re not in Ohio!
Returning to “I’m glad …” for a second: I am proud of the healthy state of charter schools in Colorado, overall, and of efforts by the Colorado League of Charter Schools to support quality charters. The ugly stories of Ohio’s charters (I don’t vouch for their accuracy) makes us glad our charter world in Colorado is nothing like the one in Ohio! (First, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/09/ohio-submits-new-figures-on-states_ap.html. Then, a week later: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/17/ohio-charter-failures-revised-upward.html – “... state education officials … now say Ohio has nearly 10 times as many failing charter schools as previously claimed….”)
The governor would like to add up to 12 new schools annually beyond that cap.
MISSISSIPPI-Gov. Phil Bryant (R) • Jan. 26
The governor also wants to see interdistrict school choice and an expansion of charter schools. "Just imagine that parents could take their hard-earned tax dollars and send their child to a school of their choice. Imagine the freedom of a parent in a failing school to send an at-risk child to a superior school nearby but outside the district. ... Your ZIP code or income level should not determine your opportunity to get a good education."
NEW JERSEY - Gov. Chris Christie (R) • Jan. 12
… Christie called for cutting back regulations that restrain charter schools, saying they're a pivotal piece of education reform in the Garden State. With characteristic pugnaciousness, Christie announced that he will "aggressively prioritize" easing regulations on charter schools. He highlighted the work of a Newark charter school teacher who has expanded computer science programs for minority and female students, using her story as an example of innovation that needs more support.
NEW YORK - Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)
The governor also said he will continue to invest in charter schools which, he pointed out, cost half as much as traditional public schools.
5) I am jealous to hear so many governors focus on the need to improve school buildings in their state.
ARIZONA - Gov. Doug Ducey (R)
Ducey also discussed school infrastructure, saying the state needs to provide resources for aging schools to repair and rebuild facilities. Arizona leaders are facing the threat of a lawsuit over the condition of the state's crumbling school buildings.
IOWA - Gov. Terry Branstad (R)
Branstad also called on the legislature to extend the state's Secure Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, fund for school infrastructure, which was created in 2008 and expires in 2029. The fund has allocated more than $3.2 billion to schools for infrastructure funding. Branstad's proposal would increase those dollars from $458 million this year to $788 million by 2049, or a total of $20.7 billion.
RHODE ISLAND - Gov. Gina Raimondo (D)
In addition, the governor requested $50 million to modernize school buildings ….
SOUTH CAROLINA - Gov. Nikki Haley (R)
In an address that dealt extensively with education issues, Haley pledged to overhaul outdated school facilities … The governor dedicated $2.5 million from her executive budget to pay for a statewide review of school facilities and to devise new, more rigorous building standards for schools. She would also set aside 1 percent of the state's bond capacity for K-12 bonds, of up to $200 million each, to help schools update their buildings. "Our students and our teachers deserve no less than to go to school each day in a place that is safe and clean," she said.
6) Finally, I am jealous to hear a governor eager to find a way for the state’s leading elected official to play a more significant role in who holds leadership roles for education in his or her state.
Colorado … one of only 6 states where …
We’ve been lucky. Gov. Bill Ritter had one of the state’s most powerful education advocates in his lieutenant governor, Barbara O’Brien; Gov. Hickenlooper will soon lose his lieutenant governor, Joe Garcia, an equally passionate spokesperson for better schools. We do not expect Donna Lynne to carry on in that tradition—nor should we. When K-12 education is not a top priority for our governor, the absence of leadership on this critical issue invites fractures and/or paralysis. Keep in mind that Colorado is one of only six states where our Governor has no role in appointing either state board members or the state commissioner. A number of us (including Bill Ritter) believe this must change. Shouldn’t the Governor have a voice?
SOUTH CAROLINA -
Gov. Nikki Haley (R)
Haley also urged voters to make the state education chief a position appointed by the governor rather than elected—though that change would not take effect while she is in office.
From Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s state-of-the state, Jan. 14, 2016
We’ll continue to support concurrent enrollment, as well as high standards and aligned assessments that improve student outcomes and teacher performance.
Last session, you came together and passed bipartisan legislation to reduce testing by 30 hours, so we can accurately measure our kids’ progress toward meeting standards without overwhelming them or their teachers.
But there are pivotal moments in our kids’ academic careers when we need to know exactly where they stand on the learning curve, so we can adjust course if needed before it’s too late. That’s why we’re standing firm on 9th grade assessments.
It’s not going to be easy to meet the challenges we face in advancing our education system: our budget request calls for a $20 million dollar cut to higher education, and no increase for financial aid.
This is not the direction we want to be moving, but it’s a direct result of conflicting budget mandates that are forcing painful choices like this one.
Our economy can’t reach its full potential until every Coloradan can be a productive part of it.
(Near the end of the speech, the governor spoke of fixing the Hospital Provider Fee enterprise designation.)
If we can’t make this very reasonable change – like many already allowed under TABOR – then what choice do we have but to re-examine TABOR?
Right now, no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us.
Coloradans know we’re not fully funding education. They’re fed up with traffic congestion, they’re fed up with potholes and they’re fed up with our inability to expand our highway system.
Virtually every chamber of commerce and editorial board across the state, as well as CACI, Club 20, Action 22 and Progressive 15 all agree that fixing the Hospital Provider Fee makes sense.
Let’s fix it and lock-in funding for education and transportation.
Let’s move forward.
Our roads and schools are waiting.