A look at key education themes across Governors’ State of the State addresses in 2022
By Catherine Van Ness
Nearly all Governors of the 55 states, commonwealths and territories deliver an annual State of the State address. By mid-March 2022, 47 Governors had delivered such an address. Some states align the State of the State address with the release of the Governor’s annual budget proposal and most use the address as an opportunity to celebrate prior accomplishments, to announce new endeavors, and to chart a path to the state’s future success. With the state’s role being central to K-12 and postsecondary education, both in funding and governance, the State of the State addresses provide a valuable snapshot of national trends in education policy.
Since 2019, the NGA’s Center for Best Practices K-12 education team has reviewed and analyzed our members’ State of the State addresses to identify key trends in education policy. For three years, we have also partnered with the Education Commission of the States (ECS) to publish a report of major education themes across all addresses. Below are brief highlights from each theme identified in that joint analysis:
K-12 Education Finance
This year, given the strong fiscal position that many states are in and the unprecedented levels of federal funding for K-12 education, at least 36 Governors mentioned school funding. For example, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker celebrated having grown K-12 public school investments by $1.6 billion, including full funding for the state’s Student Opportunity Act. Delaware Governor John Carney also celebrated growth in public school funding and highlighted $300 million committed to new school construction over the next two years. Learn more about NGA’s ARP State Funding Profiles.
“That’s why I am proposing more than $970 million in education funding with a priority focus on at-risk and disadvantaged students. A child’s zip code should never determine their future or their opportunities.”Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah
Learning Recovery and Summer Learning and Enrichment
This year, many Governors acknowledged the disruptions that teachers, students and families faced with transitions between remote, hybrid and in-person learning. At least 17 Governors emphasized the importance of efforts to support students in their academic recovery, including through afterschool and summer learning and enrichment opportunities. For example, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. dedicated $1.5 million to support community foundations working with students during the summer and after school hours to improve in math and reading. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that a summer camp, launching this June, will focus on recovering learning gains in the areas of math, reading and civics. Learn more about NGA’s Reflect and Redesign Series.
“Using the federal Governors’ Emergency Education Relief fund, we’re also empowering schools and teachers to innovate and create projects to recover learning lost due to the pandemic.”Gov. David Ige, Hawai’i
Student and Staff Wellbeing
“We must also recognize that a mental health crisis exists in South Carolina, especially among our young people who have weathered two years of disruptions, virtual instruction, isolation and constant changes to normal routines. This crisis is here, right now. Students must have access to professional mental health counseling and services.”Gov. Henry McMaster, South Carolina
In addition to lost learning time, students and school staff faced social, emotional and mental health ramifications from pandemic-induced interruptions. At least 19 Governors called attention to the need for improved health and wellness services at schools from personal protective equipment during the pandemic to mental and behavioral health services to support students as they adjust to being back in the classroom. For example, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey celebrated increasing education investments, including student support services such as autism therapy and mental health care in schools. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged that in-person learning has a positive impact on most students’ mental health and social development and celebrated investments in mental health services in schools. Learn more about NGA’s Student, Family and School Staff Wellbeing Project.
“Talk to someone who’s been successful and without fail they’ll tell you about a teacher who set them on their path. About someone who inspired them; who pushed them to be who they are today. Our teachers provide more than textbook instruction. They give emotional support and structure. They help guide our children through their most difficult and formative years.”Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa
Education has been impacted by staff shortages across many roles, from classroom teachers to bus drivers. With increases in education funding this year, at least 22 Governors also proposed increasing teacher salaries or providing bonuses to teachers and school staff with many acknowledging the importance of strengthening recruitment pipelines and career ladders to retain the best educators. For example, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a seven percent pay raise for all teachers and increases to the starting salaries for each tier of educators to help retain high-quality teachers. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson celebrated giving teachers raises over his tenure while increasing funding for education and creating a record high reserve fund.
Learn more about NGA’s School Leadership Hot Topics Series.
K-12, Postsecondary, Workforce Connections
Workforce and economic development are central focus areas for Governors and states are often most successful when they align objectives, strategies and investments across K-12 schools, postsecondary education and industry needs. At least 34 Governors mentioned workforce development, including career and technical education (CTE), apprenticeships and workforce training programs. For example, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy highlighted the importance of a strong public education system paired with high-quality institutions of higher education in attracting businesses to the state. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum urged the state to better align postsecondary degrees with the needs of businesses across the state, which will be aided by a new partnership with Western Governors University and career academies being stood up by the State CTE Board. Learn more about NGA’s Leveraging Registered Apprenticeship Report.
“[This year’s budget] will make historic investments in education, as world-class companies require a world-class workforce.”Gov. Andy Beshear, Kentucky
Given the direct connection between postsecondary education and many career opportunities, at least 19 Governors mentioned strategies to make postsecondary education more affordable for their states’ students, including barring tuition increases, expanding scholarship programs and reaching underserved populations. For example, in his executive budget, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster included a freeze on in-state tuition at public colleges and announced that students who qualify for a federal Pell Grant could have all of their tuition paid for at an in-state institute of higher education. New York Governor Kathy Hochul outlined many strategies for improving the state’s large network of public colleges and universities and announced the expansion of eligibility for the state’s tuition assistance program to include part-time students. Learn more about NGA’s Postsecondary Education Program.
“I’m also proposing stronger support for our state’s institutions of higher education, including an expansion of available financial aid, and investments to help reduce costs and keep tuition flat.”Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado
A number of Governors also mentioned K-12 digital literacy and early childhood education in their State of the State addresses. NGA looks forward to continuing to support Governors on all of the issues outlined in their State of the State addresses. Learn more about NGA’s K-12 Education Program and stay updated on Governor Hutchinson’s NGA Chairman’s Initiative focused on expanding K-12 computer science education and overall student digital literacy.