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ICYMI: State of the States Recap

Across the nation, governors are delivering state of the state addresses that outline a bold vision for education. Below are highlights of the student-centered policies being championed in statehouses.

“I applaud governors for thinking big and bold in their 2020 agendas. By prioritizing student-centered policies like early literacy, career and technical education, college acceleration, educational opportunities and teacher professional development, governors can give the next generation of citizens pathways to the American dream. There is no time to waste to ensure our students have the foundational skills to be successful in school and in life.”

Governor Jeb Bush, founder and chair of ExcelinEd


Photo credit: Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager

“A world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system…We have set an ambitious —but needed—goal of 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025 that will stretch across all aspects of our education and workforce system. Our future depends on it.” – Governor Kay Ivey

Governor Kay Ivey highlighted the connection between a successful education system and workforce. To achieve this, she proposes:

  • $1 billion increase in funding for K-12 and public colleges and universities
  • An additional $25 million dollars to expand the First-Class Pre-k program by adding 193 classrooms around the state
  • Three-percent pay increase for teachers from pre-k to college
  • A goal of 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025


“As an educator, as a student, I’ve experienced firsthand what a great education can do to transform one’s life. I have seen how quality programs deliver the outcomes all stakeholders have come to expect.” – Governor Mike Dunleavy

One of the key components of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s education platform is the Alaska Reads Act, a comprehensive early literacy policy that reallocates resources with a focus on evidence-based solutions, including statewide teacher training, department-employed reading specialists and the implementation of early literacy interventions.

Governor Dunleavy expressed a commitment to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers, especially in the most remote areas of the state. To accomplish this, he Instructed the Commissioner of Education to assemble a working group of teachers, administrators and others to review the root causes of— and develop a plan to address—teacher turnover.


“The late, great John McCain called education, ‘the civil rights issue of the 21st century.’ And he was right. As he put it: ‘What is the advantage in a low-income area of sending a child to a failing school and that being their only choice? In that spirit, we’ve worked hard to create more choice and opportunities for kids and their parents.” – Governor Doug Ducey

Building on the progress of the past decade, Governor Doug Ducey emphasized the need to close the achievement gap for low-income students. He plans to:

  • Fully fund the cost of Advanced Placement tests for financially struggling students
  • Improve school choice by reducing waitlists, as well as expanding and replicating success
  • Provide struggling schools with tools, resources and expertise to produce better results for students
  • Provide additional funding for career and technical education
  • Continue working toward the goal of 60% of adults with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030
  • Increase funding for the Arizona Teachers Academy and Teach for America


“That pathway to prosperity often starts with a great education. Most of the time, but not always, the path to success involves some higher education degree or credential — whether that’s a four-year degree, a two-year associate’s degree, or an industry-recognized certificate.” – Governor Jared Polis

In his State of the State address, Governor Jared Polis  praised legislation enacted last year to expand concurrent enrollment programs to help Colorado students accelerate their learning, as well as increased apprenticeships so students can get a jump start on their career.


Photo credit: Governor’s Press Office

“Our approach to K-12 education rests on recruiting and retaining great teachers, promoting educational choice so parents, particularly low-income parents, can place their child in a good school, and measuring results through accountability.” – Governor Ron DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis’ approach provides strategic focus on issues that will provide both short- and long-term help to Florida’s students, teachers and families.

  • Ensuring funding provided to public schools actually goes to increasing teacher pay and performance-based bonuses will help attract and retain the best educators in the nation
  • Recognizing the importance of strengthening career and technical education, Governor DeSantis urged state leaders to improve program quality and ensure students have access to programs that are aligned with high-skill, high-wage and high-demand jobs
  • Expanding private educational opportunities to help more families find schools that best fit their unique needs. Governor DeSantis urged the legislature to fully fund the Gardiner Scholarship program and expand Family Empowerment Scholarships to serve more low- and middle-income families
  • Elevating civics and our nation’s Constitution to provide a needed foundation of knowledge that better prepares students as responsible citizens


“We know the impact that a teacher can have on a student. We know that learning has the power to lift people out of poverty, and help many realize their full, God-given potential.” – Governor Brian Kemp

In his 2020-21 budget, Governor Brian Kemp prioritized education funding and teacher pay raises for a second straight year. In remarks during National School Choice Week, he championed school choice, calling for trusting Georgia parents to make the best decisions for their children.


“When we commit to giving students a strong start and provide local schools the flexibility to determine how best to achieve it, we see progress.” – Governor Brad Little

In his State of the State address, Governor Brad Little highlighted the progress made last year toward improving early literacy, expanding college and career pathways for students and increasing teacher pay, and he committed to continuing those improvements in 2020. His budget includes:

  • $3.2 million distributed to schools to increase literacy proficiency and help ensure students are reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade
  • Partnerships with employers to improve career paths to high-demand professions
  • $2 million increase for Advanced Opportunities to accommodate the increasing number of students seeking dual credit, technical competency credit, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs
  • $6.2 million in federal funding for Idaho Job Corps, a three-year project to connect 16- to 24-year-olds to in-demand jobs
  • $30 million for increases for the most experienced teachers, building out the career ladder
  • A second year of increased funding to start teacher pay at $40,000


Governor Kim Reynolds praised Iowa’s investment in apprenticeships and other work-based learning experiences, as well as proposed an additional $1 million for work-based learning coordinators to grow the program. She also highlighted the importance of expanding access to computer science courses for all students.


“I also engaged business and industry, labor, and other stakeholders so we may cultivate the workforce that Kansas will need to compete in the years ahead.” – Governor Laura Kelly

When she took office last year, Governor Laura Kelly promised that she would be “the education governor.” Since she took office, she established the Council on Education to evaluate all aspects of the education system from early childhood through workforce development. She also engaged business and industry, labor and other stakeholders to better align education to current workforce demands.


In an effort to reduce the skills gap, Governor Charlie Baker announced a $15 million partnership with vocational schools to give 20,000 adult and high school students hands-on learning experiences geared toward meeting the needs of employers and increasing industry-specific credentialing.


“Change is never easy, but Mississippi’s education system needed change. Over the last eight years, those advocates have worked to reform our education system: creating more opportunity, choice, and access for Mississippi’s most vulnerable students…The honor from these results ultimately rests on Mississippi’s students, Mississippi’s parents, and, yes, Mississippi’s teachers.” – Governor Tate Reeves

Mississippi is now first in the nation for educational gains. To ensure students continue to aim high, Governor Tate Reeves plans to invest $100 million in workforce development to train students in apprenticeships, expand community college grants and train current workers.


Governor Michael Parson emphasized the importance of early childhood education-to-workforce development in his speech, noting that Missouri recently received a $33.5 million preschool development grant aimed at creating a more effective, high-quality early learning system. At the other end of the education spectrum, Governor Parson praised Missouri for being second in the nation for apprenticeships and said he fully intends to maintain that momentum.

In addition, he proposes greater access to virtual education for high school students, as well as home school students, so they can have access to high-quality coursework that may not be offered in their school.


In this administration, we will continue to focus on becoming Top Ten in education…The path to Oklahoma’s future prosperity will be achieved by promoting the profession of teaching and focusing on students’ advancements and opportunities.” – Governor Kevin Stitt

To achieve the goal of becoming a Top Ten in education, Governor Kevin Stitt proposes:

  • Raising the cap on the tax-credit scholarship to $30 million
  • Simplifying the process for teachers with valid out-of-state teaching certifications to become licensed in Oklahoma
  • Launching Jobs for America’s Graduates to prevent dropout and enhance post-secondary and career options

South Carolina

“The facts are clear: to change the path of a child’s future, to enhance the prosperity of our economy, to maximize the success of our state, we have to make sure that every student is ready to learn when he or she enters the classroom.” – Governor Henry McMaster

Governor Henry McMaster is proposing a cradle-to-career approach to improving education by:

  • Signing the omnibus education bill passed by the House and being considered by the Senate, which includes significant improvements in early literacy, college and career readiness and next generation learning
  • Funding a $50 million effort to better bridge the gap between students and high-demand trade jobs in rural districts
  • Providing every lower-income, four-year-old child in South Carolina the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten at the public, private, parochial or religious institution of their parents’ choosing
  • Overhauling the state’s education funding formula with a more student-centered approach


Photo credit: Governor’s Press Office

“We must work harder to make teaching a more attractive profession for young people. As our economy becomes more competitive for jobs, investing in workforce development must include developing the next generation of educators.” – Governor Bill Lee

Governor Bill Lee proposed a $70.6 million investment in early literacy in his 2020-21 budget, along with legislation that would:

  • Provide elementary school teachers with enhanced preparation and training, including support from highly trained literacy coaches
  • Require a single, statewide diagnostic tool to assess how students are performing from an early age to ensure they are positioned for success in school, work and life
  • Purchase higher-quality reading materials for students in grades three through eight

His budget also proposed $46.7 million for teacher leadership and professional development, including:

  • $25 million for a “Teacher and Leader Institute” that will solicit proposals to create a new educator preparation program unique to Tennessee
  • $8.5 million for a new Governor’s Teaching Fellowship to provide scholarships for 1,000 top college students training to become teachers
  • $5.3 million for a new “Grow Your Own” initiative to develop future teachers as early as high school

The governor is also proposing:

  • The continuation of the state’s $12 million charter school facilities support fund
  • $2.3 million for administration of the new Education Savings Accounts program expected to launch this fall
  • $25 million in support services for the Achievement School District
  • $250,000 in startup funds for the new state charter school authorizer created in 2019