Meet the New Governors: Education Priorities of Governor-Elects

Are you interested in the outcomes of 2022 state level education elections and education-related ballot measures? Check out this blog post.

On Nov. 8, Americans in 36 states cast their ballots to elect their state governor. In eight of these races, no incumbent was on the ballot because of term limits, which guaranteed a change in leadership in each governor’s mansion. In eight or nine states, there will be a new governor elected.

Governors play an important role in shaping education policy in states through their power to appoint members of their state boards of education, department of education heads and other key roles. Governors also use their authority and budget proposals to advocate for specific education policies and funding.

In this blog post, I highlight the new governors and the education policy priorities they listed on their campaign websites. I also discuss top policy trends from the winning campaigns.

Leading up to Election Day, Education Commission of the States tracked the education-related components of major party gubernatorial candidates’ platforms. Thirty-three Republican and 33 Democratic candidates for governor outlined education policy priorities in their platforms. Candidates for both parties focused on workforce development and career and technical education, with teacher compensation, school finance reform and early literacy interventions also receiving mentions from candidates.

However, our team identified several policy areas that distinguished the two major parties. For example, nearly half of Republican candidates identified expanding school choice as a top priority while two Democratic candidates included school choice reform as a top priority. Democratic candidates were more likely to express support for expanding access to early childhood education or implementing universal pre-K.

Republican candidates were more likely to support reforms to history curriculum, curriculum transparency and school safety. Democratic candidates mentioned college affordability and upgrading school facilities more often.

Meet the New Governors

The following states have a new governor-elect after the 2022 election. The campaign proposals highlighted below may signal how incoming governors approach education.

Arizona Governor-elect Katie Hobbs (D) campaigned on improving school facilities, expanding access to pre-K, increasing access to childcare, increasing teacher pay and teacher retention, and expanding access to student mental health services. She also included expanding STEM and workforce opportunities, school choice accountability and reform, and increasing special education funding.

Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) campaigned on early literacy interventions, school safety, curriculum transparency, expanding workforce and CTE opportunities, and expanding internet access and teacher recruitment.

Hawaii Governor-elect Josh Green (D) campaigned on teacher retention, increasing teacher pay, expanding broadband access, universal pre-K, free community college, expanding nutrition services and access to childcare for postsecondary students.

Maryland Governor-elect Wes Moore (D) campaigned on expanding workforce and CTE opportunities, expanding community schools, improving students’ social and emotional well-being, increasing funding for learning recovery efforts, expanding access to pre-K, school discipline reform and enhancing teacher recruitment.

Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey (D) campaigned on increasing access to pre-K, expanding the pre-K workforce, upgrading school facilities, increasing education spending, expanding mental health and wraparound services, and enhancing teacher workforce diversity.

Nebraska Governor-elect Jim Pillen (R) campaigned on expanding workforce opportunities, opposing the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools and opposing the proposed state health education standards.

Nevada Governor-elect Joe Lombardo (R) campaigned on expanding school choice, repealing restorative justice, improving early literacy, school funding transparency and accountability, parental oversight and governance reform.

Oregon Governor-elect Tina Kotek (D) campaigned on increasing education funding, increasing graduation rates, expanding pre-K access, CTE program growth, school safety, opposing school choice, expanding financial aid, free community college, and expanding childcare access and financial literacy.

Pennsylvania Governor-elect Josh Shapiro (D) campaigned on improving teacher retention, increasing school funding, upgrading school facilities, reducing standardized testing, improving student mental health, and expanding CTE, computer education and parental oversight.

As these governor-elects begin their terms, we may see them pursue some of their education policy ambitions. These policy proposals may signal to state legislatures and the general public how the incoming administration intends to focus on education. Keep an eye out for our next blog post that covers additional state level education elections and outcomes of education-related ballot measures.

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At Education Commission of the States, we believe in the power of learning from experience. Every day, we provide education leaders with unbiased information and opportunities for collaboration. We do this because we know that informed policymakers create better education policy.

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