Access, Governance, State Advocacy

Governors Need Robust State Data Systems to Support Their Education and Workforce Priorities

Governors Need Robust State Data Systems to Support Their Education and Workforce Priorities

Most state governors gave a State of the State (or Commonwealth) address to their constituents this year. In the addresses, governors celebrated accomplishments and outlined their policy priorities—many of which included investments in education and workforce development. To implement these policies,  evaluate them effectively, and ensure new programs and initiatives serve students and workers equitably, people need access to data that helps them answer their questions. Students and families need access to data to make informed decisions and select the education and career pathways that fit their needs, educators and school leaders to assist students in accessing support and opportunities, and policymakers to evaluate programs and ensure they meet the needs of students and workers. Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDSs)—which connect across the early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce spectrum—are essential in order to make the priorities that governors lifted up in their State of the State addresses a reality.

In the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) review of governors’ addresses, we identified three common education and workforce priorities—all of which will require robust SLDSs designed to enable access:

  • Easing Education to Employment Transitions: Governors expressed interest in providing pathways into careers and expanding opportunities for students seeking postsecondary education or skills-based training. According to the Education Commission of the States and the National Governors Association, at least 37 governors discussed workforce development as a top priority. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey mentioned the new Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences, a residential high school designed to expose rural students to various healthcare fields and prepare them for a variety of career pathways, in her address. Most governors, like Governor Ivey, put forth policy priorities that increase access to education and career development opportunities such as early college education, skills-based learning, apprenticeships, and career and technical education (CTE). To understand these opportunities and navigate transition points between them, students and jobseekers need access to data that informs them about their available options, allows for comparison, and helps them determine which path best suits their individual needs. Employers need access to information that helps them identify the education and training providers most adept at producing the skilled workers they need, as well as understand the available upskilling opportunities for their current employees. And policymakers need access to data that enables them to assess new and existing programs and ensure they are meeting state goals and expectations.
  • Early Childhood Education: Many governors also prioritized investments in early childhood education, particularly around accessibility and affordability. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker both celebrated progress in this area and set the goal of universal Pre-K by 2027 in his address. Other governors set similar goals. With access to information about the availability, location, and demand for early childhood programs, families will be able to compare programs and make decisions based on factors like proximity and curriculum, and state leaders and decisionmakers will be able to effectively implement programs that meet the geographic and academic needs of families.
  • Youth Mental Health: Students across the United States are facing mental health challenges that negatively impact their learning. Many governors are working to provide these students with support. Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy recognized the prominence of mental health challenges facing students and the need for school-based mental health supports in her address. This year, governors, including Governor Healy, proposed initiatives such as school-based clinics, wellness coaches and counselors, and community behavioral centers, among others, to provide support to students. With access to information about the availability, efficacy, and accessiblility of various mental health supports, students and families will be able to quickly identify the supports that meet their mental health needs, and administrators and school officials can assist them in accessing those supports.

To ensure governors’ education and workforce policy priorities are effective, lasting, and meet the needs of students and workers, they need a robust state data system that enables access. DQC’s vision to transform state data systems lays out 10 policy and practice recommendations for states seeking to provide tailored access to information. By prioritizing these activities, governors and state leaders can achieve the visions they shared in their State of the State addresses by laying the foundation for meaningful access to data about education and workforce pathways. 

President Biden’s education and workforce priorities, as mentioned in this year’s State of the Union address, similarly require investment in SLDSs at the federal level. Find out why here.