National Governors Association
Organizational Structure, Education Initiatives, Meeting and Funding
The National Governors Association (NGA) is powerful, bipartisan public policy and lobbying organization made up of the chief executives of America's fifty states, American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. The NGA serves as the collective voice of the nation's state governments and provides a forum by which governors and their staffs can examine policy, share problems, and development solutions to issues of concern to the states. The NGA also represents state interests before the federal government, and provides advice and technical assistance to governors and their staffs.
The NGA is headed by a nine-member bipartisan executive committee, from which body the members annually elect a chairperson and vice chairperson from different parties. Former governors Bill Clinton, John Ashcroft, and Tommy Thompson have all served as NGA chairs. The NGA maintains three standing committees: economic development and commerce, human resources, and natural resources. In addition, the association forms task forces and special committees made up of at least two governors to address high-priority issues of immediate importance.
One of the association's principle bodies is the NGA Center for Best Practices. The center helps governors and their public policy staffs study problems and challenges facing their states and develop innovative approaches and solutions. The center examines practices in various states, then disseminates information on which states have the "best practices" in dealing with education, health care, the environment, social services, trade, workforce development, crime, and terrorism, so that other states can shape and reform their own policies using these practices as models.
The NGA takes great interest in education policy and practice because the U.S. Constitution grants to state governments the primary responsibility for public education. Governors recognize their leadership role in education policymaking, and during the 2001–2002 session the NGA included task forces on both postsecondary and K–12 education.
The Center for Best Practices includes the Education Policy Studies Division, which is staffed by policy analysts with expertise in education. During the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Education Policy Studies Division focused its work on early childhood education, school health, extra learning opportunities for elementary and high school children, standards-based education reform and performance-based accountability, teacher quality and teacher preparation, and the use of technology in education.
In 1999 the NGA and Center for Best Practices launched an initiative in cooperation with seven states (Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin) to build public and political support for improving access to affordable health care and education for infants and toddlers by offering, among other things, incentives such as tax credits and family leave. In October 2001 the center launched the Interdisciplinary Network on School-Health Partnerships, a two-year initiative involving Mississippi, Missouri, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. This initiative was designed to increase the role of the governors in school health issues, examine the relationship between health care and student performance, develop strategies for states that need to improve student health programs, and help states build partnerships that promote the health of school children.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s the center's policy analysts were also examining state practices to expand extra learning opportunities (ELOs) for children ages five to eighteen. ELOs include activities such as organized sports, dance, tutoring, and community service, which take place outside of the regular school day and supplement a child's classroom education.
In 2001 the NGA, in cooperation with the National Conference of State Legislatures, launched a two-year project to improve teacher preparation and ensure quality teaching at all levels of education. The Colleges and Classrooms: State Strategies for Redesigning Teacher Preparation Policies project involved five states: California, Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, and Vermont. The project brought together officials and legislators in these states with members of the higher education community and Center for Best Practices staff to address key issues related to teacher preparation. The goal of the project was to help states design legislation and regulations that would improve teacher preparation, leading to better teaching and learning in the state's schools.
Meeting and Funding
The members of the NGA meet twice each year for three-day sessions. In the winter the governors meet in Washington, D.C.; the summer meeting is hosted by one of the states. The work of the NGA and the Center for Best Practices is funded by dues from individual states, federal grants and contracts, private foundation grants, and dues from Corporate Fellows who pay $12,000 per year.
NATIONAL GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION. 2002. <www.nga.org>.
JUDITH J. CULLIGAN
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