Looking Ahead in 2016: State of the State education policy trends


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Since 2011, Education Commission of the States has provided summaries of governor’s State of the State addresses as a way of uncovering education priorities and trends for the year.  2016 is no different.  As Education Commission of the States prepares to release its annual trend report in early March, here’s a sneak peek of the three policy areas receiving the most attention so far.

School Finance

School finance was a prominent issue in this year’s state of the state addresses.  States continue to move education spending closer to pre-recession levels. California, Idaho, Missouri and New York among others proposed substantial increases to K-12 funding in the coming year.  Additionally, governors in Arizona and Iowa are prioritizing spending on school infrastructure and governors in Georgia, Kansas and Rhode Island support reevaluating funding formulas to find ways to use funds more effectively for their states.

Teacher Quality

Many governors have pledged to improve the climate for public school teachers by improving compensation and developing strategies to recruit and retain quality instructors.  States prioritizing improving teacher compensation include New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington.  Additionally, South Dakota has proposed a half cent sales tax to give its teachers a raise.

Governors are also looking for ways to encourage residents to pursue teaching as a profession and provide career development opportunities to ensure high quality instructors continue in the profession.  Some of the more noteworthy proposals came from Indiana and South Carolina who are looking to provide college tuition and loan repayment incentives to teachers in these states.

Career and Technical Education and Postsecondary Affordability

Making college affordable and connecting residents to degree or certification programs in high demand were at the forefront of many governors’ speeches this year.  Governors proposed policies that seek to reduce financial barriers to college and create pipelines from community colleges, technical colleges and universities to employment in high-demand sectors.  Governors in Idaho, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont among others, proposed solutions aimed at placing a college education in reach for more residents.  Governors in Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee expressed support for career and technical education aligned with immediate and future workforce needs.

A more complete overview of trends in governors’ 2016 state of the state proposals will be released by Education Commission of the States in early March.

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