K-12 Education Reform

1.1    Preamble

America’s elementary and secondary education system has evolved over the decades with changing economic pressures, intense globalization and rising expectations for all students. Despite these changes, however, too many of our nation’s students are unprepared to succeed in college or compete in the 21st century economy.

Governors believe federal education policy should embrace a strong state-led accountability system, reflect college and career readiness, provide flexibility for states and districts to determine the best strategies to identify and intervene in low-performing schools, support and incentivize statewide strategies and innovations to prepare, recruit, retain and reward high-quality teachers and school leaders, and accelerate ongoing state-led education innovation.

To this end, governors believe the following key principles should be addressed in federal elementary and secondary education policy.

1.2    Principles

1.2.1 State-Federal Partnership

  • Education is an area of primary state responsibility in federalism, and federal action should not preempt state laws and policies governing their K-12 education systems except where the national interest is at risk or states have not acted collectively on an issue of legitimate concern.
  • The leading role of governors and other state officials to collectively govern education should continue to be recognized and supported in federal law.

1.2.2 Accountability and Results

  • State academic standards are a state-led decision and process. The federal government should recognize and support state authority over education and continue to refrain from directing, mandating or interfering in this process.
  • Governors support a federal accountability framework that provides high expectations to genuinely support the unique strengths and capabilities of each student. In order for accountability to work, it must be a federal, state and local partnership that makes certain every child counts.
  • Federal accountability systems should empower states to set their own ambitious goals through an inclusive, transparent process that ensures every child is ready for college or a career.
  • Accountability for education in every state ultimately rests with the governor, regardless of their constitutional authority over state K-12, due to their role in funding school systems.
  • Governors are committed to ensuring that every student succeeds and support a transparent, rigorous and strong state-led and state- determined accountability system in education that annually tests students and disaggregates individual student performance.
  • Governors believe that disaggregated student achievement data and transparency helps governors, state legislatures, parents and educators know where to focus their efforts to increase achievement for every student.
  • The federal government should support state efforts to improve the quality of their state assessments and identify any unnecessary state and local tests by providing flexibility for states to use innovative, new assessments.
  • The federal government should not impose new and limit current maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions on states as a condition of funding. MOEs curtail state authority to control their own budgets and over time discourage investment and the identification of cost-savings.

1.2.3  School Improvement

  • States have been piloting research-based, state-led innovation to lift up schools out of failure and support schools with slipping performance before they fail. Federal school improvement policy and funding should support state efforts to identify, spread and scale these best practices in even more districts and schools while avoiding a prescriptive menu of limited federal options.

1.2.4  Governance and Educational Alignment

  • Governors believe students need a supportive, seamless progression from preschool through college to lifelong learning and successful employment.
  • Federal K-12 education governance should build on bold educational changes governors have piloted through ground-breaking partnerships between school districts and various state agencies to connect federal and state education reforms, avoid fragmentation and ensure that federal education policy supports students in all phases of life.
  • Governors should be the sole grantee for every federal K-12 education program with funding provided to states

1.2.5 Human Capital

  • Governors recognize that teachers and school leaders are central to the success of our nation’s students. Federal education policy should reflect their importance while supporting and incentivizing state-led strategies and innovations to prepare, recruit, retain, reward and evaluate high quality teachers and school leaders.
  • Teachers and school leaders should play a key role in designing and delivering professional development, and teacher and school leader evaluation systems should be collaboratively designed by states, district leaders, school leaders and teachers.
  • Federal educator and school leader training programs should include a significant role for states to scale innovative teacher preparation and development policies statewide.

1.2.6 Preparing Students for the New Economy

  • Computer science skills are gateways to rewarding careers of the future and lifelong learning for students. The federal government should support state efforts to incorporate computer science, coding and other emerging technology skills into K-12 curriculum and expand access to high quality computer science instruction.
  • A well-rounded education, including high quality arts and history education, is key to ensuring students develop the top attributes innovative job creators seek. The federal government should work with governors to support, expand and scale high quality arts and history education instruction throughout K-12 systems, build and retain teacher capacity and ensure equitable access to programs for all students.
  • Experiential, competency-based and work-based learning are essential tools for preparing students for success in the careers of the future. As states leverage these and other innovative approaches to redesign K-12 education, the federal government should give states the additional flexibility they need to accelerate and scale successful programs.


Time limited (effective Winter Meeting 2019 – Winter Meeting 2021).

Adopted Winter Meeting 2019.