As the new year unfolds, governors are beginning to outline their education plans for 2012.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) called for changes to teacher tenure in his State of the Commonwealth speech:

Our teachers are well educated and motivated professionals who deserve to be treated as such. Just like workers in most other jobs get reviewed every year, and are therefore able to be more accurately promoted and rewarded for their success, so too should our teachers.

Last year, Virginia introduced a pilot merit pay program for teachers. This year, McDonnell proposed adding “more incentives and accountability to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers.”

Noting that “a child’s educational opportunities should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her neighborhood or zip code,” McDonnell also proposed a scholarship tax credit program, which would provide tax credits to corporations that contribute money toward private school scholarships for low-income students.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) touched on similar themes in his State of the State address. His six-step education reform plan calls for tenure reform that bases tenure on a teacher’s effectiveness rather than simply on how long he or she has been in the classroom. Christie also talked of ending “last in, first out” policies and compensating teachers based on the difficulty of the school or the subject.

Similar to McDonnell, Christie stated that perhaps the most important aspect of his education reform plan is a program to provide “tax credits to provide scholarships for low-income students in the worst-performing schools in the state.” He noted: “Opportunity should not be offered to only those in an excellent school district or with parents who have the money to release their children from the prison that is a failing school.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R), already a leader in school choice, called to expand education options even further for Louisiana families in this year’s inauguration address, asserting that “as long as there are children who are not receiving a quality education…our mission is not accomplished.” He spoke of the importance of educational opportunity for all students:

In America, we believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to a quality education.… But that is not the reality today in America.… There are many children…who do not have the same opportunity [for a quality education]. They may live in an area with public schools that are failing, and they cannot afford to move to an area with better public schools and they cannot afford private school.

Jindal stated that “America promises equal opportunity to have success, but America does not promise equal success,” adding that the way to ensure that every child has access to a quality education “is not massive spending and tax increases.… The way forward is very simple—it is to provide more choices and more opportunities for parents, for families, for children.”

Last year was a historic year for education reform. And 2012 can prove to be the same as state leaders promote reforms like these that support quality teaching and open the doors of educational opportunity for more American students.