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The 50 States of Education Policy: A breakdown of governors’ State of the State addresses

March 31, 2019
Jessica Campisi
Education Dive

This latest column focuses on some of the key takeaways from what’s happened in state legislatures during the past month. Previous installments of The 50 States of Education Policy, along with an interactive map that breaks down policies in each state, can be found here.

By the end of March, 48 of 50 governors will have delivered their 2019 State of the State addresses. For 19 of them — plus former educator and current Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz — this year’s State of the State is their first since taking office. And while there’s variation among state officials and what they hope to conquer, as well as what their states already have, education is a common thread across the nation.

An analysis by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) found that all 48 governors who have delivered a State of the State address so far this year mentioned education in some capacity, whether it was to tout a victory or put forward a policy proposal.

Below are the biggest trends from this year’s speeches and what they mean for state education policy:

The main takeaways

Based on the ECS analysis, four overarching K-12 topics throughout governors’ addresses were school finance, teaching quality, early learning and school safety.

School finance

At least 36 governors discussed school finance, ECS notes. California, Maryland, Iowa and Utah governors pushed for significant increases in education spending for the next fiscal year.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom promised to inject more than $80 billion into the state’s public education system, while Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa boasted record-high education funding. Hogan said his proposed budget, for the fifth year in a row, “provides historic, record-high funding for our schools,” investing $32 billion in K-12. Reynolds mentioned her state’s record investment in K-12 in 2018.

Other governors — from Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska and Washington, among others — talked of fully funding at least basic education. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey moved to fully fund education in the state, while Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called for fully funding schools. Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee mentioned his state’s “years-long effort to fully fund basic education.”

Many governors outlined proposed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year that include increased spending for schools and specific K-12 initiatives….

Early learning

At least 24 governors emphasized directing more money into early-childhood education. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker praisedhis state, which “invested over $100 million in new funding into our early education system,” and New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said 4,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds are now in high-quality pre-K programs. Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed increasing Early Childhood Block Grant funding by $100 million, totaling $594 million.

The governors of Rhode Island and New Mexico also advocated for universal pre-K in their states, while Mills of Maine proposed giving all 4-year-olds access to pre-K programs.