Mandate for Most Governors: A Struggle To Fund Education
Officials in states across the country continued last week to announce their fiscal and program initiatives in education for the new legislative season (see Education Week, Jan. 12, 1983). Among the developments:
Gov. George Deukmejian proposed a 5-percent increase in state aid for public schools last week in a "balanced budget" proposal, involving no tax increase, that he unveiled before the state legislature. The new governor offered a two-part plan that he said is designed to solve the state's $1.5-billion deficit problem over the next 18 months. The first phase includes $750 million in cuts to the 1982-83 budget and would carry over the other half of the deficit to next year. The announced cuts were in conservation, energy, arts, and other programs.
The Governor also proposed a fee increase of $150 for students in the University of California system, and $230 for those in the California State University system.
Joe Frank Harris, the Democratic state legislator who was inaugurated as the state's 78th governor last week, has already approved the draft of a supplemental-appropriations bill that will trim more from state-agency budgets that were first cut significantly last fall in a directive from the outgoing governor.
Although Georgia in recent years has put a freeze on hiring and cut scheduled salary increases, this year marks the first time that state officials have felt any of the "real pain" that other states had already begun to experience, said a spokesman for the state education department.
The former governor had asked for $7.8 million in cuts from the education agency, and proposals from the new governor and the House Appropriations Committee of the state legislature will add another $1.9 million to that figure, for a total cut of about $9.7 million for the current year in a $1.4 billion education budget.
A spokesman for the education department said the agency's cut will result in the loss of about 68 positions and the curtailment of many other administrative costs.
In an unusual move resulting from the budget situation, the state legislature will consider a second supplemental-appropriations bill that will include additional funds for certain education programs. The largest education item will be a $10-million adjustment in school aid stemming from an unexpected increase in public-school enrollments last fall, according to the spokesman.
The bill also includes $338,000 for Georgia's "Quick Start" program, which provides postsecondary vocational training for employees of new area industries.
Pledging to make improved financing for education a priority, Governor James R. Thompson was sworn in for a third term less than a week after he cut $42 million from this year's appropriation.
Those cuts--part of $158 million the Governor is trimming from the fiscal 1983 budget--bring the education appropriation down to $2.1 billion. They are being challenged in court by the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The unions claim the legislature's delegation of budget-cutting authority to the Governor is unconstitutional.
The education reductions also drew critcism from State Superintendent Donald G. Gill after Mr. Thompson ignored the recommendation of the State Board of Education regarding where the axe should fall. The board has urged that an $11-million textbook-subsidy program be eliminated and that $4.6 million be taken from teacher pensions.
The Governor left those programs intact while taking more than $36 million from general state aid, $16 million more than what was recommended by the state board. "It was a telling blow to our concept of equity," Mr. Gill said. He said the action probably would force teacher layoffs next year and could cause some districts to run out of money.
Gov. Robert D. Orr and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Harold H. Negley have proposed a two-year, $12-million program to promote excellence in Indiana public schools.
Among the major features of the six-part proposal to the state legislature, which convened last week, are a $10-million computer-education initiative to help schools obtain equipment and train teachers.
Under this plan, two funds would be set up for the purchase of hardware and software. One, an "incentive grant fund," would provide a 50-percent matching grant to districts with money in their building funds.
The other would provide technology loans to districts with no money in their building funds.
Facing a shortfall of $81 million in the current education budget of about $4.1 billion, Gov. Lamar Alexander has decided to draw on funds set aside for higher-education programs and equipment purchases, travel, and hiring in state agencies. "Grades K-12 will not be affected," said Joel Shore, assistant commissioner for administration in the Tennessee Department of Education.
Gov. Alexander, who was re-elected last fall, will present his budget proposals to the legislature on Mar. 1. Gov. Alexander said last week that he "did not rule out" a tax increase--a move that state education officials say could provide more funds for education programs this year.