With each new year comes new promises from elected officials. On the state level, both newly-elected and re-elected governors have outlined their vision for their states for the coming year in inaugural and “state of the state” speeches.

This past election cycle, school choice expansion and improvements to the quality of the American education system were popular anchors as candidates fought for governor’s mansions across the country. Because education policy is a decentralized system, state and local governments play a critical role in shaping the educational experience and opportunities that children receive. 

In their first addresses since being elected, many governors highlighted their state’s plans to deliver on campaign promises to expand education freedom. As National School Choice Week closes out, let’s take a moment to recognize some governors who did just that.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who has served since 2017, has already delivered on promises made in her state address on January 10 where she announced a “comprehensive education reform package” for her state.

The program establishes education savings accounts for each child in Iowa totaling $7,598 per child, matching what the state pays per pupil for public school students. In her speech, Reynolds applauded public schools, but emphasized that the purpose of her plan was to expand choice for Iowa families:

We have incredible public schools filled with amazing, dedicated teachers. My daughter is one of them.

But every child is an individual who deserves an education tailored to their unique needs, and parents are in the best position to identify the right environment.

Some families may want an education that conforms to their faith and moral convictions; some kids may have ambitions and abilities that require a unique educational setting; others may experience bullying or have special needs.

Regardless of the reason, every parent should have a choice of where to send their child—and that choice shouldn’t be limited to families who can afford it.

Iowa, like Arizona and Florida before it, has become an exemplary model of education freedom for the rest of the country. Other state leaders are taking smaller steps to offer their youngest citizens similar opportunities. 

Idaho Governor Brad Little addressed the people of his state with a particular focus on his “Idaho First” plan, which makes the Empowering Parents grant program a permanent fixture in the state. The program allows eligible families to receive up to $3,000 of assistance to be used towards a variety of products in the educational marketplace, including “computers and technology, internet access, instructional materials, tutoring services, and educational services and therapies through approved vendors in the Empowering Parents online marketplace.”

States like Alabama, which have minimal school choice offerings, see 2023 as an opportunity to begin the conversation. In her inaugural address, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey prioritized the need for school choice initiatives in her state, one with historically poor learning outcomes: 

We need to have meaningful discussions about school choice in Alabama, and I believe that begins with making needed reforms to our charter school option. We cannot continue letting our students struggle and rob them of a chance to achieve their dreams.

In Arkansas, newly-elected Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded her constituents of her campaign promises, affirming her commitment to improving the state’s educational offerings: 

Just as I promised you as a candidate, I will make education reform the hallmark of my administration. I will be Arkansas’s education governor.

While her speech did not outline specific steps she plans to take, Governor Sanders has big hopes for transforming Arkansas during her tenure:

We will improve literacy for our youngest students. We will reward our teachers with higher pay. And we will empower parents with more choices, so that no child is ever trapped in a failing school or sentenced to a lifetime of poverty. Parents are the cornerstone of a good education. Our public schools do not belong to education bureaucrats in Washington DC—they belong to YOU.

Governors know that education freedom is a winning message. Americans, especially parents of school-age children, care deeply about the quality and availability of education offerings. This explains why that as they begin their tenure, many governors are seeking to assure their states that they are indeed focused on what matters most.

As the nation comes to terms with the disastrous effects of the pandemic-era school closures, Americans are demanding higher-quality educational options for their children. This is why governors like Brad Little, Kay Ivey, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were successful in their campaigns and why they have a lot of promises to deliver to the citizens of their states who are hungry for education reform.