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Monday, June 13, 2011

Education of State Legislators

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

For the first time, The Chronicle has looked at where every state legislator in America went to college—or went at all. Starting with data from Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan research organization, and expanding the scope with extensive research into more than 1,000 individual legislators, we set out to see which is the least-educated legislature in America, which is the most educated, where all 7,000-plus legislators went to college, and why it may or may not matter.

In doing so, we got a glimpse of the citizens who hold these seats and how they—so much more than Congress—reflect the average American experience.

Like most American students, the vast majority of state legislators went to public colleges. And most of them stayed close to home. In Louisiana, four out of five legislators never went to college outside the state. Across the nation, many lawmakers attended community colleges. Over all, about one in four don't have bachelor's degrees.

This is not an Ivy-educated, East Coast elite. Out of nearly 7,400 state lawmakers, just 39 went to Yale. There's the Utah representative who listed himself simply as "self-educated." And another who went to the "School of Life." We saw one representative who noted that she went to "gun school," and we found a dozen or so who told voters their college grade-point averages—even a lowly 2.0. Maybe that was just another way to make clear that these representatives are close to the people. See, it seems to say, we got C's, too.

Ultimately, in a country where just 28 percent of adults have bachelor's degrees, do we really want all of our state lawmakers to have sat in graduate-school seminars? Maybe it's good to have some like Kyle Jones, a 19-year-old New Hampshire lawmaker who manages the night shift at a Burger King.

California has the highest share of legislators with bachelor's degrees or higher (89.9%) while New Hampshire has the lowest (53.4%)