- The Education Commission of the States produced a report on the nation's six K-12 and higher education priorities, as outlined in an analysis of State of the State addresses by more than 40 governors. Improving financial support to institutions, broadening workforce development, increasing college affordability, expanding career and technical education, improving K-12 teacher quality, and developing early learning systems were the common threads shared by a majority of governors in their speeches.
- Many governors outlined their desire to increased investment in education in rural and low-income communities and in building interest and skill in the health science fields, and for expansion of free tuition programs for continuing learners and those enrolled at community and technical colleges.
- Several governors also called for increased salaries of secondary education teachers as a necessity for cultivating talent. Others, like Alabama's Kay Ivey, proposed increases in pre-K funding for improving student outcomes at all levels of learning.
While governors typically use their State of the State addresses to appeal to a wide cross-section of voters, what matters most is what gets written in policy. To influence the lawmaking process, education stakeholders are communicating the long-term value of investing in education through lobbying efforts and social media campaigns.
Some areas of emphasis are more challenging than others. Several public colleges are confronted with the reality of becoming "private" institutions by way of how much they have to give back to the state for financing of retirement pension and system costs. Meanwhile, K-12 improvement is hard to achieve in rural areas, because of the growing impact of population loss and the declining industries.
Institution presidents, trustees and other leaders are being more aggressive in outlining the deep connections between education and economic development. Families move to areas with high-quality K-12 education, which increases tax revenues and attracts retailers and other businesses. Colleges spur economic growth through athletic events, research activities and students infusing expendable income into local businesses. These kinds of narratives may be critical in helping lawmakers from certain districts keep promises to their voters.