BOSTON — Education and the economy will be twin themes tonight when acting Gov. Jane Swift makes a State of the State address that could prove crucial to her political future.

Swift will deliver the speech at 7:30 p.m. before a joint session of the House and Senate. It will last about 20 minutes, and will be broadcast by local television stations.

She will unveil plans to help laid-off workers, strengthen adult education and overhaul bilingual education, Swift spokesman Jim Borghesani said.

“The theme is the economy and jobs,” Borghesani said. “She’s going to talk a lot about jobs, and what the government can do to help people either keep their jobs or find new jobs.”

Swift, a Republican, inherited the corner office when former Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become ambassador to Canada. She is running for a full four-year term in November, and is expected tonight to sound themes that will be part of her campaign.

The new program for laid-off workers falls in line with Swift’s emphasis on helping victims of the recession. The program will be funded with surplus state money, allowing Swift to maintain her emphasis on fiscal discipline, Borghesani said.

Swift will reiterate her support for the state income tax rollback, which she cites as an economic stimulus. Some Democrats propose putting the rollback on hold until the economy improves.

Swift will support the income tax reduction despite her recent statements that she is preparing a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that will cut $500 million for existing programs. She has not said where those cuts will come.

Swift will also propose a beefed-up adult education program. The Legislature came under widespread attack last week for seeking to reduce education funding.

In addition to the economy, education remains a Swift campaign theme. She’s expected tonight to propose legislation to overhaul the state’s bilingual education system by giving local districts the option of developing their own programs or continuing with the state requirement of three years of bilingual education.

Critics say the state’s bilingual education mandates are too rigid, and that too many students aren’t learning English quickly enough.

“The bill (Swift proposes) would eliminate the one-size-fits-all approach that the state currently employs, and will allow districts to present a bilingual education program that is best suited to their students’ needs,” Borghesani said.

Tom Benner may be reached at [email protected]

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