Governors Taking the Lead in Education Reform

Today, we’re going to take a look at other state governors who have really taken the initiative and led the charge for education reform in their states.  For a change of pace, we’ve decided to highlight states that we haven’t previously discussed on our blog.  Although many governors have recently introduced laws in support of education reform, Indiana and New Jersey are notable because they both have governors who have outlined clear and comprehensive plans for reform, and then actively pursued legislation to realize their respective agendas.


In 2011 Governor Mitchell Daniels’ state of state address outlined an ambitious agenda for education reform. Governor Daniels called for empowering administrators by limiting the scope of collective bargaining so that it only addressed wages and benefits. He also sought to change Indiana’s current evaluation system so that teachers could obtain tenure only upon demonstration of effectiveness at helping students to learn, so that effective teachers would be compensated accordingly, and so ineffective teachers could be helped to improve or asked to leave.  In addition, he called for increasing charter schools, and for embracing school choice by allowing parents to spend public funds on private education for their children.

In a remarkable feat, Governor Daniels managed to pass his entire education agenda by May of 2011.  A bill on Teacher Collective Bargaining (SB 575) limits collective bargaining only to issues of wages and benefits. Finally, a Bill on Tenure, Evaluations and Licensing (SB 0001) links teacher pay to student performance so that teachers are annually evaluated, and are ineligible for pay raises if they perform poorly.  A bill on Charter Schools (HB 1002) established a Charter School Board that will be responsible for authorizing and monitoring charters, and promulgating clear guidelines to explain how charters will be reviewed.  Moreover, the School Scholarship Act (HB 1003)creates a tax deduction for low- and middle-income families who pay educational expenses for private schooling.

New Jersey

Governor Chris Christie announced in January 2011 that the Garden State was on a mission to introduce options to compensate high-performing teachers, eliminate teacher tenure, close low performing schools and increase the number of charter schools.

Indeed, Governor Christie has followed through during his lame-duck session with the principles he established one year ago.  He has introduced a package bill designed to improve evaluation systems so that effective teachers would be compensated through merit pay, and ineffective teachers would be dismissed without protections from tenure and seniority policies.

Additionally, the Urban Hope Act, which is expected to be voted upon todayby New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly, is Governor Christie’s unique approach to addressing the need for new school buildings and transformation of low-performing districts by allowing nonprofit companies to construct and manage “Renaissance” public schools in three of the state’s lowest performing cities.

Finally, Governor Christie’s Charter Reform Bill is intended to permit members of individual districts to vote on charter schools for their own communities.  Despite being passed by New Jersey’s assembly in June, this bill has stalled in the Senate Education Committee.

Although Governor Christie has not yet been able to pass his entire agenda, he has outlined and consistently advocated for a comprehensive list of education reform goals. He deserves recognition for his leadership and active attempt to pursue the education reform agenda that he set out in January.

What Will We See in Connecticut?

Governor Malloy got the “Year of Education Reform,” off to a strong start by releasing a clear set of principlesby which to build a legislative agenda:

  • Promote early childhood education opportunities;
  • Authorize interventions that enable school turn-around in low-performing schools and districts;
  • Make high-quality school models (whether traditional, magnet, or charter) available;
  • Remove barriers to success, especially in high-performing schools and districts, to embrace innovation;
  • Provide the best teachers and principals to our students, and give them a fair system that values effectiveness over seniority and tenure; and
  • Deliver more resources to the neediest districts.

As Governor Malloy stated at his recent Education Workshop, “This is our moment.”   We couldn’t agree more, and we look forward to Governor Malloy’s continued leadership on education reform efforts in 2012.