EARLY in January, governors began to throw out the first pitches of the season as they made their state-of-the-state addresses. Fiscal concerns took top billing in many states. Economic development proposals--many of which are tied closely to education systems--also were high on the list. But interest in such areas as early learning remained prominent as well. Here are some highlights.
Early learning. Support for giving kids access to learning in the early years continues to grow. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley proposed investing an additional $20 million to triple the number of children who benefit from voluntary First Class pre-K, contending that such affordable access will fill a gap that has left working families with too few options. In Georgia, where the first alums of that state's subsidized pre-K program will enter college this fall, Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed allocating an additional $6.4 million in lottery funds to bring the total number of slots in the program up to 79,000. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wants to add 2,000 pre-K slots to his state's program, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine wants to increase the number of slots in his state's program from 13,000 to 20,000. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to give more Kansas children a successful start in school by funding prenatal care and newborn screening, Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, and high-quality child care. She also wants to fund all-day kindergarten.
Career and technical. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle suggested her state should start Creative Academies, modeled after the successful STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) academies, to focus on animation, digital media, game development, writing and publishing, and all the many talents of Hawaii's keiki. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed that state leaders rededicate themselves to reducing the dropout rate with better career and technical programs in the high schools in every district where kids want them.
Economic/work force development. Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell proposed $300,000 for a loan reimbursement program for engineers who work in the state. She would also like to establish a "Green Collar" Jobs program at vocational and technical schools to train students in energy-efficient construction and retrofitting work.
Georgia Gov. Perdue suggested investing $40 million to help commercialize research coming out of the state's universities in such areas as biosciences and medicine. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver wants to create a $5-million science, technology, engineering, and math center the University of Northern Iowa to help double the number of math and science teachers in order to make sure that every high school graduate will be ready for the jobs of the future.
Gov. O'Malley of Maryland wants to develop science, technology, and public education in the state in order to combat climate change, improve conservation and energy efficiency, and make Maryland a leader in the development of renewable energy and green building techniques.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to reward colleges and universities when their students complete degrees, when they create opportunities for low-income students, and when they find ways to turn research ideas into businesses. Last year, Michigan launched the No Worker Left Behind initiative with the goal of giving 100,000 workers displaced by changes in the economy access to college education and other training to prepare them for specific high-demand jobs.
Finance. Several governors are advocating changes to property tax systems. Connecticut Gov. Rell, for example, wants a property tax cap. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is requesting major changes to a property tax system that is based on a system of agricultural assessments and appraisals that is no longer workable. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax relief proposals include adding a penny to the sales tax as the fairest way to make up the lost revenue. …