State Education Policy Beyond the 2018 Midterms
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State Education Policy Beyond the 2018 Midterms


– Well, welcome, Stephen.
– Thank you. – Really glad to have you here. So we’re gonna talk state policy. So much political discussion gets focused inside the beltway on
Capitol Hill, federal level, but really a lot of the
action is at the state level. There was an awful lot that
went on in this midterm election that was really central to that. So I wanted to start off by
asking a little bit about, as Maria mentioned, there’s
a lot of new governors that are coming into office. What is the learning curve
really for a new governor who comes into office on education issues? And what has the
Governors Association done to bring people up to speed on the things that they’re going to have to
be dealing with policy-wise? – Absolutely, so essentially, for those of you who are counting, we have at least 22 governors
that we’re expecting. We have races that still
need to be sorted out in the Virgin Islands and
the Northern Mariana Islands, but the good news is this. If you look at every single governors candidate’s top priority, whether they were running as an incumbent or whether they were
running as a new candidate, education was a top
priority for most of them. In fact, for all the new govs coming in, at least 19 of them we could find made education a top priority. So as we think about what they need to do to get up to speed, the first thing is you have to learn how to be governor, you have to learn how to manage, you have to learn how to hire your staff, and you have to make
sure that you’re ready to go on day one. The things working against
governors on day one are this, most of them will take office after their general assembly sessions or their state legislative
sessions have already started. The second thing going against them is that their state
budgets that are likely being considered this year
have probably been written by the governor that came before them, which means they may
not have full control. So what NGA has been doing
is we’ve been giving them as many resources as possible. We had most, an overwhelming
majority of new governors that came to Colorado last
weekend, and the good news is it appears that they
are up to the task. While education was
the most mentioned word in gubernatorial campaigns in 2018, the talk of education continued, the desire to do something
positive on education continued, and we’re hopeful that
once they get hired up and once they start and get
through all of the snowstorms and the things that they have to manage as soon as they get into office on day one that they will hit the
ground running on education. – When you mentioned what’s top of mind, in the discussions at this new
governor’s academy training, what kind of education
issues seemed to bubble out? When people did talk about it, what was top of mind for them? Really it was just a general desire to do something on education. The thing you need to
know about new governors, and actually the seminar
for new governors, Lamar Alexander who is a former
governor and former chair of NGA, he called this
baby governor school, and so at baby governor school, we basically make sure
that they are up to speed on how to hire their
staffs and be governor, and just know how to do the job from a management standpoint, and also to make sure that they’re ready to address any disasters
that come in on day one. We give them the tools
they need to succeed, and in the coming months,
we’ll actually help them on specific education issues that they wanna hit the ground running on. – Can you touch a little bit on really kind of the unfinished
business or the agenda items that these governors are gonna confront in terms of school funding and finance, school safety, which is
something that Maria touched on, accountability, school
quality and accountability, under the Every Student Succeeds Act? – Absolutely, so in equal numbers, if you look at what commitments were made by the individuals who were
elected to be governor, equal numbers Republican
and Democrat actually agreed that something needed to
be done on school finance. Where they disagreed was how to do it, and I think that’s the biggest difference and the biggest dichotomy you’re gonna see as state legislative sessions get underway and governors take the oath of offices. While I think addressing funding in states is going to be the top
issue that we again see this state legislative session and as a priority of governors offices, you’re going to see dramatically
different proposals. I think for those governors
who will find it difficult to raise revenues in the state, I think those are gonna be the ones that face the most difficult decisions. State governments because of the recession are cut to the bone already. For most states, there
is no place left to cut, which means that governors
are gonna have to get creative in how they come up with ways
to compensate their teachers, and they’re also gonna
have to get creative with what they’re gonna do to make sure the teachers
are taken care of if they can’t give them
dramatic pay raises. One of the proposals that came out during the election was
from current Congressman, future governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. He believes that it’s the state’s role to start to provide affordable
housing for teachers, and one of the campaign
promises and proposals that he put out there is essentially the state partnering
with local governments in high-need areas where
it’s hard to attract teachers to essentially provide
housing for teachers, so if they can’t give them a top salary, they can at least alleviate their rent. – Did school safety issues come up at all? I mean, this is certainly as a result of the tragedies earlier this year dominated a lot of state legislatures. There were dramatic
proposals that took place in many different states. – School safety was a named
top priority of 25 governors who ultimately won their
elections, or 25 governors elect. It became a campaign point because it was a point in real life. So as we think about what
to do about school safety, obviously when we talked
about disasters before and responding to disasters as
new governors were coming in, we were talking about weather events, we were talking about different things, like earthquakes and
tornadoes that can happen. And now, because of this
new era that we’re in around protecting our
schools, that is now an issue that governors have to
consider on day one. So when we think about disasters, when we think about tragedies in states, a new picture is emerging when
it comes to school safety. Now, as far as what
governors can do about that when they come into office, I think there’s a lot
they can do on their own, but obviously as it being
a controversial issue and being that it has
died down a little bit, it’ll be interesting to
see if it’s as top of mind this legislative session
as it was the last. But I do think that there
is a conversation here in another topic that we’re
gonna be discussing nationally at the beginning of next
year, which is infrastructure. As governors come in and think about public-private partnerships, as they think about what
they’re gonna do on day one as governor to build bridges,
build roads, build buildings, there’s a lot to be said about investments that should be made in
school infrastructure. But at the same time, as
governors are representing themselves at the federal level, we need to talk about what
flexibility will be there for states to spend any new
federal infrastructure funds on school facilities. – To make the pivot to the
feds just a little bit, I wanted to ask a little
bit about the relationship that governors face and that states face with regard to the US
Department of Education. There’s gonna be a learning curve here. These folks are gonna
have to get acquainted. Things are reset somewhat under the Every Student Succeeds Act. How is that going? What are the challenges for
states essentially seizing some of this ESSA
flexibility if it exists? – So I think there’s two stories with the state-federal relationship
on education right now. I think there’s one on K-12 education where you had secretaries
of education before 2015 that had a fair amount of
say over how K-12 education should be delivered in schools, and then Congress took away
a fair amount of that say that the US Department of Education and the Secretary of Education has had. So when it comes to K-12 education, other than the approval of state plans, there has not been any interventions from the US Department of Education or really any hand from the
US Department of Education since we’ve had the new administration. That is not necessarily the worst thing when it comes to states, because states have been jump-starting their K-12 systems using the opportunity that is the Every Student Succeeds Act. So here’s where there’s a different story, and that is how this is gonna play out as it comes to new leadership. We know at the local level that
new leadership means change, and it’s not always a good
change at the local level when you have new superintendents, you have new principals coming in. At the state level,
it’s National Governors Association’s job to
make sure the governors are in the best position to make sure that this change in
leadership is a positive thing and has as minimal disruption as possible. With that said, there are several tools that governors have at their disposal when it comes to the Every
Student Succeeds Act. One is they now sign
off on the state plan. There is going to be
a series of amendments that could be filed within governors first few weeks in office at
the US Department of Education to either make minor changes to their plan and maybe even in some cases
make wholesale major changes to their plan, depending on
the turnover in leadership. There’s also another factor
here that comes to the change in state education, K-12
education leadership. We have heard that there could be and have projected that
there could be up to 20, probably over 20, new
state education officials, state education agency
chief school officers that will be in place in states. As new governors are
coming in, at least 22, with up to 23 or 24 new state chiefs that could be coming
in across the country, bridging that relationship and
having a strong relationship with your chief state school officer is going to be the most critical thing when it comes to implementing ESSA, and also the Department of Education needs to give governors and state chiefs as much time as possible to figure out what the new game plan is on
ESSA, if it is new at all. – I wanted to ask about a couple of really concrete things at the state level. As Maria mentioned, Congress, although this particular Congress may not have done a lot on education, they did pass a bill, Career
and Technical Education bill. Now Career and Technical
Education and workforce training is a very top of mind
subject for governors. What action do you see on
their part going forward? – Great, so 27 of the individuals who won their gubernatorial elections, whether incumbent or new candidates, made career and technical
education a priority. It was listed on their website, it was something that they
talked about regularly during the campaign. The Career and Technical Education Law that Congress just passed
is a huge opportunity for new governors,
because I’m gonna go back to the tool they have under ESSA, they sign off on the state plans. This is a new movement in
federal education policy giving governors the
ability to have some say over what the state-federal relationship should look like in K-12. So as we think about those
plans coming together, and as we know that there is
going to be less of a role for the US Department of Education when it comes to the state plans versus what there was under
the Every Student Succeeds Act, I think that this is an opportunity for states to come together, to not have to worry about the bureaucracy of getting a state plan approved, and worry more about submitting something to the federal government and giving some sort of strategic plan to the local school districts to make career and
technical education work. Granted, I think for those 27
governors who are coming in who have made career and
technical education a priority, we have told them one
thing that’s disappointing, and that is the Perkins
Career and Technical Education funding that’s coming in with this new law is about $1.2 billion. It’s gonna be a little bit more next year. That’s not enough to make major changes across the country in career
and technical education. There is going to have
to be a conversation between the governor and
the state legislature about what do they wanna prioritize this, and also whether they’re going to work with some private businesses and try to bring in some private money in public-private partnerships and partnering with private businesses on coming up with new career
and technical education models, not just in K-12, but also at
the higher education space, using apprenticeships,
using pre-apprenticeships. These are all tools that
are at governors’ disposals where in some cases
they are less expensive than coming up with new classroom focused career and technical education. – Now we don’t have a lot of time left, but I said before that
we were gonna do a little crystal ball gazing here. Looking forward to 2020,
there’s really a window of opportunity for these governors to make some impact between now and then. What do you see happening
in terms of interaction between now and looking forward
to the next reckoning, 2020? So I’ll start with what I hope for. I hope that governors
ignore everything political that’s going on in D.C. I also hope that bipartisanship prevails. One of the most encouraging things we saw last weekend with
all the new governors is that we don’t have them for very long, but they were together
for a period of 48 hours, new Republican governors,
new Democratic governors, and by the time it was over, they were talking as
though they were friends and they’ve known each
other for a long time. At the National Governors Association, it is our job to bring governors together at the national level,
but it’s also our job to bring governors
together at the state level around state solutions. So my hope is that
governors, new governors, incumbent governors that
won their reelection, they start to look at their
neighbors and they see that even though they have
a Democrat and Republican after their name and they
may be of different parties that they were running on the same things. They want the same things
for their education system. They have the same goals,
they want to make sure that there is enough
funding for K-12 education. They want to make sure that
college is more affordable. They all said the same things. They may have all had different
ways of getting there, but as we saw with the class
of governors that came in in 2010, at least 32 new
governors came in, in 2010, by the end of that eight-year period, governors were copying each other. Governors that ran on one thing actually and said that they were gonna do, basically address education in some way, and it was a very partisan way, they ended up looking to
their Republican neighbor or their Democratic neighbor
and doing it the way that they had done it in their state. The most notable example
of that is free college, The College Promise Campaign in Tennessee. We have a Republican governor
who made community colleges affordable as possible,
in some cases free, and you have Democratic
governors across the country, Republican governors across the country, who look at what Bill Haslam
has done in Tennessee, and said, “I wanna do that.” We need more examples of
that across the country, and in order to do that,
we need them to ignore the politics of this town. – Really interesting, thank you. I think we have time for maybe
a minute’s worth of questions if we have any questions
from the audience. We have the microphone right here in the center that folks can come to. – Hi, my name is Ben Williams. I’m a teacher here in D.C. I’m just curious, you had said that a lot of incoming governors are on board with making
school funding a priority, but then you had mentioned
that they’re disagreeing on how to do that. Can you just kind of
paint a general picture on how they’re thinking about
adjusting school funding and what different options exist? – Sure, so first of all,
thank you for what you do. Your job is a lot harder than mine. And second, it really just
involve revenues or no revenues. That is the broad category, which is if you were traditionally
a conservative governor, and your state has not raised income taxes or has not raised sales taxes or has not raised any
sort of revenues or fees in your state that produce revenues, that is going to be a challenge. If you were in a
traditionally liberal state where there has not been
a fear to raise taxes, it is easier to fill that gap. We saw in the state of Washington when their state supreme
court started fining them quite a bit of money every day, because they were not fully
funding their education system under their constitution,
it took a little while, but they were able to bridge that gap. In Washington, that’s easy. In Kentucky, that’s harder, where we have to make sure
when we’re helping governors come up with solutions, it’s
gonna be very hard to help them come up with things to do
that don’t cost any money, so I think that’s the challenge. In Arizona, you saw an example where you had a teacher funding shortage, you had a teacher salary crisis, you had teachers marching
on the state capitol and they actually started
to raise revenues. I think you’re gonna have a lot more cases where if teachers are exerting pressure, if the education establishment
is exerting pressure, and there is a public outcry
for something to happen, that’s when state legislators
who have been traditionally fiscally conservative
may have to look to this is an emergency and come up
with some additional funding. So really it comes down to
funding, and the funding options that governors laid
out during the campaign and governors elect laid
out during the campaign that didn’t cost any money
are only a partial solution. – Thank you very much, and
thank you to our audience as well.
– Thank you. (clapping) – Thank you, guys.

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