If you want to know what’s really happening in education policy, don’t just look to D.C. or #SOTU (that’s Obama’s State of the Union hashtag, for those of you not on Twitter). The real action is happening in the states. And because so much of education policy is created at the state level, the priorities set by each governor matter a great deal. As we wrap up the first month of 2015, governors across the country have begun giving their state of the state addresses, detailing their priorities and plans for the upcoming year. To date,
29 speeches have been given and all of them have mentioned education in some way or another. The policies they outline for pursuit will have an impact on how teachers are treated, how students learn, how money is spent and how families are given information, options, and more.
Strengthening teacher evaluations to include a greater percentage of student learning gains.
Reforming teacher tenure so that receiving it takes five consecutive years of high evaluation ratings.
Prohibiting a student from being in the classroom of two consecutive ineffective teachers.
Increasing the charter school cap.
Focusing on charter quality.
Turnaround plans for struggling schools, accountability for teacher preparation programs, and more.
MichiganMichigan’s Governor Rick Snyder spoke extensively on education, calling attention to the importance of student literacy and teacher effectiveness, requesting to finalize the teacher effectiveness policies that have been floating around Michigan for several years, and pointing to Detroit and the work being done for students there. Missing from Gov. Snyder’s speech was any mention of charter school transparency and accountability. After a
damning series on charter schools in the Detroit Free Press last year, many were hoping for, if not expecting, a strong call to action for increased transparency and accountability, including sanctions for consistently low-performing schools and authorizers.
Georgia Following in the footsteps of the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) and the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD),
Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia asked for a constitutional amendment to create an Opportunity School District, one that would allow the state to intervene in the lowest performing schools in the state. This system has shown promising results in both the ASD and the RSD, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that could be made under a similar structure in Georgia.
Many governors, those of
New Mexico, for instance, have identified increased teacher pay as a way to bring in and retain the best talent. New Mexico governor Susana Martinez also proposed to provide educators with $100 gift cards at the beginning of each school year, to help offset the cost of materials that teachers often have to provide on their own. Many governors called simply for more funding to be directed to the classroom, including Missouri, Mississippi,
Minnesota (in an inaugural address),
Nevada and more, despite the fact that many states are still operating at
pre-recession levels of funding. Georgia and Arizona also called for a fresh take on their states’ funding formulas, with a focus on resources for technology and increased equity for students.
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.