Saturday, July 21, 2007

NGA Conference / Update Education



Gov. Jennifer Granholm is at the wheel of a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado convertible Friday with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who chairs this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association in the Traverse City area.

Detroit Free Press

2 governors share similar backgrounds

This weekend, they're in spotlight

She leads a state where she wasn't born and is an ex-federal prosecutor and attorney general who in her 40s was elected governor as a likable, moderate Democrat, replacing a Republican. Four years later she trounced a Christian conservative challenger.

Went to college in California. Earned a law degree from an elite Eastern school.

The description fits Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's governor. And Janet Napolitano, Arizona's governor. Their careers have had striking parallels.

As new governors in 2003, both faced billion-dollar deficits and Republican legislatures. Both stress education and innovative businesses as crucial to their economies.

Both will be in the spotlight at the National Governors Association conference in the Traverse City area this weekend, Granholm as host and Napolitano chairing a gathering that will mix policy with parties in one of Michigan's premier playgrounds.

It's Granholm's job to show off her state's best side.

It's Napolitano's job to oversee discussions of global warming, online child predators and -- her main focus -- education as the key to lucrative, innovative markets for the United States.

In an interview this week, Napolitano said improving college education is crucial as the United States competes with other nations. Still, she said, the issue hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. The federal No Child Left Behind law for K-12 schools dominates the debate but, Napolitano said, doesn't go far enough in its testing requirements.

"They don't really tell you if your students have the capacity for innovation and creativity, the things that will allow us to compete with the Beijings, the New Delhis, the Dubais, the Dublins of the world," Napolitano said.

"What helps here is the opportunity for governors to share with each other what they are doing. Frankly, my experience at these governors meetings is some of the valuable conversations are in the background, in the hallways, as to what you tried that didn't work very well or maybe cost way more money than it produced."

Napolitano chose Granholm to chair the NGA committee on economic development and federal energy policies. Granholm said they struck a friendship in 1999, after they were elected attorneys general.

Napolitano is Arizona's third woman elected governor. In 2005, she was named one of the five best governors in the country by Time magazine. Conservatives label her a big spender. Democrats considered her a possible running mate for presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.

She bridged a polarized Arizona government and made friends with business, said Earl de Berg, a pollster with Behavior Research Center in Phoenix.

"She's a pretty savvy gal. She has an intuitive understanding of where the public is in Arizona with respect to their frustration with past politics," de Berg said. "She's slightly left of center, but she gives the impression she's open to all, and it's really struck a chord with the public."

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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