Education policy in the wake of the voter-rejected “Students Come First” laws is a hot-button issue as this year’s legislative session convenes, and Gov. Butch Otter had some strong things to say about it in his State of the State message. “I do NOT seek to simply revisit issues related to school improvement that were raised in the recent election,” he declared. “Instead, I’ve asked the State Board of Education to assemble a broad cross-section of stakeholders to study the message voters sent us and identify elements of school improvement on which there is broad agreement.”
He said, “I’m convinced that acting too quickly or without due deliberation will generate needless distraction from our goals of improving efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in our education system.”
Said the governor, “There was no electoral mandate for the changes we proposed on Nov. 6. But I also heard no clarion call for the status quo. What I heard was dissatisfaction with the process and a plea for more collaborative leadership. We must respond with appropriate sensitivity and care.”
Interestingly, the governor’s budget contains an expenditure directly related to this: $33.9 million in ongoing money in the public school budget to enact recommendations that that stakeholder group and lawmakers agree on in budget for the coming year, which starts July 1.
“Let me say it again, I am neither calling for nor expecting major school improvement measures this year,” Otter told lawmakers. “But I believe there are areas in which we can make progress, and I encourage you and all citizens to engage in that public discussion.”