States News Roundup
While the Illinois State Board of Education and the state superintendent haggle over how much more money the state's public schools will need for fiscal 1983, Gov. James R. Thompson is asking that state aid to education be cut by $35 million.
And the governor's proposed cut, state officials say, would actually amount to a $77-million loss, taking into account a $42-million obligation for the teachers' pension fund.
Donald G. Gill, state superintendent of education, has proposed a budget of $2.6 billion for 1983, an increase of $78.5 million over this year's state allocation. The superintendent's budget calls for funding most categorical programs, such as special education and school meals, at 90 percent of eligible claims. But it recommends no increase in general aid.
When Mr. Gill presented his proposal to the board on Feb. 25, however, some members complained that the budget did not meet the needs of schools--particularly in support for special education--and the board narrowly rejected the plan.
The superintendent said a boost of $230 million would be required to meet all local district needs in 1983. But he defended his "bare-bones" budget as one that reflects "the reality facing us."
Mr. Gill and others predicted that the board will approve the proposal at its next meeting this month, after members have had a chance to look at the governor's alternative.
The governor's proposal, Mr. Gill said, is "completely unsatisfactory. We will present a budget significantly higher than his and that will be the one we will be working for."
Governor Thompson promised that education would benefit if the legislature adopts his initiatives to raise $150 million through higher taxes on liquor and insurance companies.
But in the absence of tax hikes, the governor stressed, his education budget represents "the maximum support possible within severely constrained revenues and the many demands on these revenues."
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has given preliminary approval to a measure that would relieve school districts of the obligation to administer annual achievement tests to students being educated at home.
Under a home-education law passed by the 1981 legislature, local schools must monitor the progress of these children.
If the proposed change should pass, it would mean that students educated at home through the 12th grade would not be able to receive a regular diploma, but would have to take a high-school-equivalency test in order to obtain a diploma.
Should the children return to the public schools before the 12th grade, the school district would resume testing under the proposed measure.
Before the board takes final action in April, the proposal will be subject to a period of public comment and to review by a legislative oversight committee, which must approve board actions to ensure that they conform to legislative intent.
The chairman of that committee, Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, is a strong proponent of home education, and was instrumental in the passage of last year's home-education law. By eliminating the definition of "school" from the state's education statute, the 1981 legislation allowed for the proliferation of small schools operated by religious groups.
Under the terms of an agreement reached between the Massachusetts state board of education and the state's board of regents for higher education, high-school seniors will be permitted to enroll as full-time students at local community colleges this spring so they may qualify for Social Security benefits.
Terry Zoulas, spokesman for the state department of education, said that without the "special program," about 7,000 seniors statewide would lose their monthly Social Security benefits as a result of the new federal law phasing out the program. The measure, passed last summer by Congress but virtually unnoticed until the past few months, denies the monthly stipends to anyone who is not enrolled in college by May 1.
All community colleges in Massachusetts will offer the program to seniors who choose to participate, Mr. Zoulas said.
The special program will run from this month to June, and will offer at least 12 credit hours of mathematics, English composition and history--enough to fulfill the state's requirements for a high-school diploma, according to Mr. Zoulas.
"We're encouraging them to keep some connection with their high schools so they can graduate with their class," Mr. Zoulas said. He added, "There's no law that prohibits dual enrollment."
Gordon M. Ambach, the commissioner of education for the state of New York, traveled to Washington last week to speak out against the President's proposed education budget cuts for 1983.
The budget's "devastating effects" would leave New York with 45 percent fewer federal education dollars than the state and its school systems received last year, Mr. Ambach said. The total amount of funds would be reduced from $2.2 billion in the 1980-81 school year to $1.2 billion in 1983-84, he said.
Speaking for the New York Board of Regents at a news conference held in the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Ambach urged that Congress "continue the federal role in education with particular emphasis on the importance of education for economic development and security."
The state's leaders were particularly concerned that four programs--vocational education, vocational rehabilitation, education of the handicapped, and public-library services--be "amended and reauthorized" this year, Mr. Ambach said.
In addition, he asked members of Congress to develop a "comprehensive federal manpower policy to serve ... minority and low-income youth.''