Governors Extol State Innovations, Plans for Schools
Washington--Just as President Reagan's State of the Union Message last January included references to the importance of education to America's future, the nation's governors--meeting here last week--emphasized the need to upgrade their state education systems in order to reduce unemployment, advance technologically, and reduce a variety of social ills.
The winter meeting of the National Governors' Association included several sessions at which governors enthusiastically described initiatives to improve education in their states. They adopted resolutions supporting excellence, higher achievement, and the use of computer technology in the schools. And they discussed recommendations of two task forces: one on technological innovation and the other on education for employment. (See story on page 6.)
The governors also took a more forceful position than they have in the past regarding priorities in the federal budget. They passed a policy resolution urging the Congress to "share the burden among national defense and domestic spending reductions and possible revenue increases, which do not unfairly burden already hard-pressed, lower- and middle-income Americans and do not shift additional costs to state and local governments."
Spending Increases Urged
Regarding spending for education and other "non-defense, discretionary" programs, the governors urged the Congress and the President to permit spending increases of up to three-fourths of the rate of inflation. (The President has proposed reducing the budget for education programs from $15 billion in the fiscal year 1983 to $13.2 billion next year.)
Gov. Scott M. Matheson of Utah, the Democratic president of the association, said the governors took a position on the budget primarily because they were concerned with reducing the federal deficit.
High deficits, he said, "are unacceptable and pose a clear and present danger to our ships of state."
"The length and depth of the current recession has wrought economic
coast to coast. In the face of declining revenues, states have cut spending and raised taxes," he said.
But at least one governor, Anthony S. Earl of Wisconsin, blamed part of the states' problems on the priorities of the Reagan Administration. During a meeting of the governors and the President last Monday, Gov-ernor Earl, a Democrat, told Mr. Reagan that his policies were "inherently unfair" because they were hurting the poor, according to an aide to the Governor.
'Plenty' of Positions
When the President responded with a position he has taken before, that the want ads contain "plenty" of positions available, Governor Earl replied that a recent advertisement for 2,000 jobs in his state drew 20,000 applicants.
According to the aide, the President then blamed the nation's educational system for not training people correctly for the jobs that are available.
A group of governors also expressed the association's budget concerns directly to Congressmen, in testimony before the House Budget Committee's task force on education and employment.
Gov. Richard D. Lamm of Colorado, a Democrat who chairs the association's committee on human resources, told the committee:
"Last year, the states accepted the principle that federal grants-in-aid for a variety of programs should be frozen. We are now prepared, reluctantly, to see overall growth in non-defense discretionary spending for 1984 to 1988 limited to only three-quarters of the rate of inflation. The decision comes at a time when the demand for services is growing and while states will have to assume additional responsibilities in order to preserve critical services."
The governors, who last year began negotiating with the Administration to fashion a "new federalism" proposal--in which the states, local governments, and the federal government would sort out responsibilities for the multitude of government programs--this year refused to accept the President's federalism proposal.
The Administration's plan, which was unveiled on Capitol Hill last month, would include a set of four block-grants packages, in which several education programs are included.
"We are not prepared to accept, and will strongly oppose, attempts to shift current federal costs back to states and localities under the guise of federalism," the governors' resolution said. Further, it stated that although "the states remain ready to consider the orderly turnover to them of a comparably priced set of program responsibilities, such as education, community development, transportation, and social services," the governors "remain convinced that certain principles must continue to guide the revitalization of the federal system."
Their position included a request that the federal government assume responsibility for the Medicare program, and that it take a "larger re-sponsibility" for welfare programs than it currently does--two principles that the governors also insisted upon last year, but that were rejected by the Administration.
The governors also took policy positions on employment and training, and on improving education through science and technology programs.
Regarding jobs training, they agreed that "development of a comprehensive national employment policy must be assigned the same level of priority by the federal government as national defense, the maintenance of a sound currency, and support for a healthy economy."
Their proposals included: increased funding for the federal Job Training Partnership Act; a "school-to-work transition" program for high-school graduates; expansion and strengthening of the vocational-education system; federal assistance to states for jobs-creation; and private-sector involvement in skills training.
The governors also called for "state, federal, and private cooperation" to improve the nation's scientific and technological base. The proposals asked that government, business, labor, and academic leaders:
"Demand excellence and substantially higher levels of achievement in math, science, engineering, and computer learning in our schools and universities";
"Provide sufficient job-based training and technological literacy for the new jobs" in high-technology fields;
"Channel capital investment toward technological innovation and transformation of our economic base through the new computer and telecommunication technologies"; and
"Provide tax incentives for corporate donations of computer equipment to elementary and secondary schools, and vocational and technical schools, similar to tax incentives currently existing for contributions of scientific equipment for research or experimentation to institutions of higher education."