Education, Criminal Justice Focus of Governors' Outlooks


More than half of the nation's state governors delivered their State of the State address in January, including Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) and Jerry Brown (D-California).

Twenty-nine U.S. governors discussed their states' economic, infrastructure, taxation and healthcare systems in their State of the State addresses in January.

Most shared positive economic outlooks, contrasting sharply with pundits and national politicians claiming that the economy remains weak and unstable.

Criminal justice was addressed by 16 governors, while education was discussed by 25 governors.

Despite their prominence in national debates, immigration and environmental concerns were only addressed briefly in most speeches.

The importance of education and the necessity of education reform were addressed extensively.

Pre-kindergarten through college was discussed, emphasizing the need to expand pre-K programs and help students read at grade level by third grade, attract high-quality teachers by offering increased pay and merit-based bonuses, and connect college programs to workforce needs through collaborative partnerships between businesses and colleges.

Criminal justice reform, a key issue in 2014, was still prominent in 2015. Last year, a number of governors set forth plans to address overcrowded prisons, substance abuse, mental health and recidivism.

This year, many provided progress reports of mostly positive results coupled with a sober realization that sustained effort was needed.

Also included in this year's discussion was addressing the prevalence of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault.

Several governors spoke of environmental preservation broadly, while a few criticized EPA regulations for negatively impacting their state's economy.

Jerry Brown (D-California) and Jay Inslee (D-Washington) both mentioned climate change, highlighting renewable energy initiatives and asserting a moral obligation to "pass on healthy air and water to the next [generation]," respectively.

Immigration was notably absent in most addresses. When mentioned, it was referenced almost in passing.

Religious references were confined to the nearly ubiquitous closing remarks asking for God's blessings upon the people and the state. A few noteworthy exceptions included:

● California Gov. Brown's reference to his early training as a Jesuit priest and an allusion to Matthew 7:24-27: "We must build on rock, not sand, so that when the storms come, our house stands."

● Baptist Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) framing his address in the context of a fisherman's prayer: "Oh God, Thy sea is so great and my boat so small."

● Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), recognizing the social capital churches offer and announcing his intentions to create a department "to assist and leverage community and faith-based organizations in the delivery of education, health, workforce training, food programs and social services."

Governors of Alabama, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Utah had not delivered their addresses at press time. A transcript for the Hawaii and Nevada addresses could not be obtained.

Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas did not have 2015 state of the state addresses.

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Tags: Criminal Justice, Education, Environment, EthicsDaily Staff, Immigration, Prison Reform, State of the State


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