States News Roundup
A Florida appellate court has ruled that the state's school boards do not have to discuss class size or staffing levels at the collective-bargaining table.
The First District Court of Appeals upheld in a 3-0 decision a ruling by Florida's Public Employee Relations Commission.
The commission, in rejecting an unfair-labor-practices complaint by a Tampa-area teachers' union, ruled that student-teacher ratios and staffing levels are not mandatory subjects for collective bargaining because they are not concerned with "wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment," the only bargaining-table topics allowed under state law.
For its part, the appeals court said "the setting of class size and minimum-staffing levels are policy decisions which are incorporated in the term 'standards of service to be offered to the public,' which are to be unilaterally set by the public employer."
For the eighth time in as many years, the New York Board of Regents has recommended that the state cease providing operating aid to its wealthiest school systems and give more money to its poorest ones. (See Education Week, Dec. 7, 1981.)
The state legislature, which must approve the plan, has rejected similar proposals every year since 1974.
Under the regents' proposed aid formula, the state in 1983-84 would add $358.9 million to this year's $4.56-billion school-aid budget.
However, 105 of the state's 707 school systems would lose all their state aid under the regents' proposal by eliminating the state's so-called "flat-grant" and "save-harmless" provisions.
Oklahoma budget analysts say a "cash-flow problem," which has already resulted in budget cuts of 5.5 percent and 13 percent in November and December, could force further cuts of up to 25 percent next spring and result in layoffs that have so far been avoided.
But since most education spending is determined at the local level, it is impossible to predict what effect the budget problems might have on the public schools, according to J.I.M. Caldwell, the director of state finance.
The slowdown in oil production, the national recession, and lower interest rates have resulted in lower revenues than expenses for the first time since the early 1970's, Mr. Caldwell explained.
Currently, the spending cuts are being enforced on a month-by-month basis. Common schools receive about $750 million in the fiscal-year 1983 state budget of $2.18- billion, Mr. Caldwell said.
With the exception of some state-mandated programs such as school lunches, the arts, and psychological services, Mr. Caldwell said, "there is a great deal of flexibility on the local level on how they juggle the money."
He said that some local governments, for example, might choose to raise property taxes to compensate for the lower level of state funding.
Worried that California students' performance in school will continue to decline, the California Roundtable has approved a "major plan of action" for the business community to work with educators and community members to improve education. The roundtable, made up of 83 leading California corporations, established its jobs and education taskforce two years ago.
The five key areas in which business "can and should play a leadership role in bringing about needed change in the California public school system," the organization said, include:
raising educational standards,
improving technical education.
increasing community involvement with the schools,
reforming the education-finance system, and
strengthening the teaching profession.
"We recommend that businesses establish and disseminate to schools and parents their expectations for the educational level of beginning employees," said Cornell C. Maier, chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp., who headed the task force on jobs.
They also urged the exchange of personnel.
A new report on minority teachers in Massachusetts contends that legal action and amicable compromises prevented the "wholesale layoff" of minority teachers that was predicted in 1981 when Proposition 2, the state's limit on property taxes, went into effect.
The report, "Early Lessons in an Ongoing Dilemma: Minority Teachers in an Era of Retrenchment," was prepared by the Massachusetts Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was released last week.
The state advisory committee, which has been monitoring the status of minority teachers, in May issued its first report, entitled "Teacher Layoff, Seniority and Affirmative Action."
Citing the compromises reached in several school districts, the committee's latest report said that they represented a "more encouraging" development in the efforts to preserve racial balance among faculty in the districts.
"This contradicts the common belief that the controversies of the past year were reflections of an irreconcilable conflict between the principles of affirmative action and seniority, or even longstanding racial animosity," the report said.
The report added, however, that the public needs to be made more aware of the effects of fiscal retrenchment on education policy.