State News Roundup
Michigan Governor William G. Milliken has withdrawn his proposal for a property-tax cut this year because of the state's growing budget deficit.
Michigan's deficit--largely because of continuing high unemployment--is now estimated at more than $200 million, and the governor said the state simply could not afford a tax cut now.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Phillip Runkel termed the governor's decision "an act of statesmanship."
Some legislators, however, still favor the cut and may proceed without Governor Milliken's support.
State support for public schools has eroded steadily in the past few years, but indications were that the governor would try to balance the budget without further cuts in state aid to local school districts.
The 20-percent property-tax cut, proposed as part of the governor's economic-recovery program for the hard-pressed state, would have been phased in over three years. The state, under the Milliken plan, would have replaced only 65 percent of the lost revenue to school districts and other local government entities, which are heavily dependent on property taxes.
The measure would have deprived school districts of some $55 million this year and up to four times that amount by 1983, according to estimates from state school officials and the Michigan Education Association.
Most Michigan school districts are in such severe financial straits already, remarked one state official, that the "the best thing for the schools in this state would be for the economy to turn around and interest rates to go down. We need to sell some cars--and Japanese cars don't count."
A faculty policy committee at the University of California, Berkeley, last week endorsed a report calling for the dissolution of the institution's school of education--once considered one of the best in the country.
The Faculty Budget Committee, a nine-member group that advises the university administration on policy, budget and evaluation questions, gave its approval to the recommendations of a commission set up last January by University Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman to review the effectiveness of the school's education programs.
That panel, made up of three faculty members and one student from disciplines other than education, concluded that doctoral-level research in education should be shifted to other departments, such as psychology, and that teacher training should be made "a general campus enterprise."
In a report last May, it faulted the School of Education for "a disturbing lack of leadership" and "uncertainty of mission." In addition, it criticized the faculty of the school for a lack of innovative teaching.
Responding to the budget committee's action, Chancellor Heyman said any decisions about the fate of the Berkeley school of education, which was ranked as the tenth best teacher-training school in the country in a 1977 survey of education school faculty members, are "quite premature."
Mr. Heyman is expected to decide on the fate of the school of education by Christmas.
Paul A. Butcher, superintendent of the Prairie City school district and principal of its elementary and high schools, said it is much too early to tell whether the experiment will succeed, but added that it has a very good chance of working.
Currently, 11 elementary-school and 4 high-school students are taking courses offered by the Calvert Correspondence School of Baltimore and the American School of Chicago, respectively. The courses cost the district between $250 and $375 per student.
Mr. Butcher said the plan was adopted because voters turned down3three successive school millage proposals since May this year, forcing the school district to make deep cuts in its allotments for transportation, athletics, and faculty salaries.
"We've had an unusual situation here because the county hasn't required school-operating levies for several years," Mr. Butcher explained. The county's schools had been financed predominantly from taxes collected from the timber industry, he said, "but now with the economy in such terrible shape, we've had quite a budget crunch."
Mr. Butcher admits that the children in the program will miss out on a number of experiences that they would otherwise get in a normal school. However, he adds, many will benefit from the close contact they will get while studying at home with their parents.
"It's a compromise, all right," he said. "Lord only knows that we would prefer to have them here."
The Illinois legislature has upheld the governor's veto of $24 million in education funds, leaving state support of public schools $48.7 million short of last year's appropriation.
The vetoes by Republican Governor James Thompson sliced $3 million from general state aid to local districts; $16.7 million from various categorical programs such as special education and free meals; and approximately $5 million from summer school and adult education.
The $2.13-billion budget for elementary and secondary education is $235 million below the amount requested by the State Board of Education. The state's contribution to public schools, under the new budget, will drop from 43 percent of total expenditures to 40 percent, according to Illinois school officials.
Governor Thompson used his veto power to bring the education appropriations in line with his fiscal 1982 budget, which called for substantial cuts in state spending and necessitated more than $400 million in reduction vetoes by the governor throughout state agencies.
Meanwhile, the governor's influential budget director, Robert L. Mandeville, has told state school officials that the economic picture is even bleaker for the 1982-83 fiscal year.
Of the potential $500 million in new state revenue, Mr. Mandeville has said, most is already earmarked for tax relief or for increased outlays in entitlement spending, such as the burgeoning Medicaid program.