States Education Issues
Nevada is currently facing an estimated $70-million deficit in its $1-billion budget. Gov. Richard Bryan, who has proposed a $208.7-million budget for education in fiscal 1984, has said the state will not be able to provide pay raises for state workers, college faculty members, or teachers in fiscal 1984.
A number of measures have been introduced to resolve the deficit issue, according to a spokesman for the Governor.
The Governor is proposing a 75-cent increase in the property-tax rate, with all the new revenue being earmarked for the local school districts. It should raise an additional $84 million in 1984 and $91 million in 1985, a spokesman for the Governor said.
"They're talking about taxing a wide variety of things, all the way from soft drinks to insurance premiums to whiskey to property. We are nowhere near a serious tax package yet, though," said Arthur Palmer, director of the legislative counsel bureau.
Nevada will reduce support for education over the next two years. Only 45 percent of the state budget will be earmarked for education programs, compared to 53 percent last year, state officials said. The Governor's tax proposal is designed to make up for the loss of state funds.
The legislature is considering a bill that would require private schools to participate in the statewide proficiency examinations for 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th graders. Another measure would require that public-school bus service be made available to private-school students along certain routes.
Teachers' organizations are promoting changes in collective-bargaining laws. They want a broader definition of negotiable issues (for example, they cannot now bargain over class sizes and transfer policies) and binding arbitration to resolve labor disputes.
In Texas, revenue estimates have repeatedly been revised downward for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 1; by then, state officials expect a shortfall of about $2 billion against a budget of $26.6 billion.
Although budget proposals for fiscal 1984 are not yet firm, a number of adjustments in the school-finance system are already under consideration.
One possible solution to school districts' financial difficulties has been offered in the form of a constitutional amendment by State Senator Grant Jones, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Jones proposes to use the $3.5-billion Permanent School Fund, the interest proceeds from which have traditionally been placed in an "Available School Fund," to guarantee local school-district bonds. Districts could then sell bonds backed by the state's AAA bond rating at lower interest rates than they could obtain using their own lower ratings.
A second bill, also offered by Senator Jones, would adjust the formula for allocating state funds to local districts by altering the salary system for teachers. It would erase salary differences between first-, second-, and third-year teachers and start them all off at a higher level.
William Haley, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, has proposed a bill that would ban the formation of small, municipal school districts. His aim is to prevent rapidly growing areas from seceding from established school districts, thus cutting the tax base of the older districts.
New Mexico, faced with a 2-percent shortfall in the current fiscal year, has compensated with across-the-board cuts; education lost $11.2 million of its $557.8-million state allocation. Gov. Toney Anaya has recommended that taxes be raised and the education budget increased to $586 million in fiscal 1984, but the tax plan has run into stiff opposition in the legislature. The House has approved $564 million for elementary and secondary education, and the Senate is expected to concur.
Two legislative proposals could help effect savings. The first involves the timing of the enrollment count, upon which state aid is based. At present, enrollment counts may take place in the first 40 or the first 80 days of the school year. The bill would limit the counting period to the first 40 days. Districts in the southern part of the state that enroll the children of migrant farm and oil workers would lose funding under this proposal, since migrant children frequently enroll late in the school year.
A second legislative proposal would eliminate the state's School Support Reserve Fund as source of backup money when districts underestimate their needs. Under the new legislation, the reserve funds would be available only if federal monies are reduced.
The state's lawmakers are also considering a bill that would require more years of science, mathematics, social studies, and foreign languages for high-school graduation.
In Colorado, where deficit spending is illegal, the legislature is considering across-the-board cuts of up to 2.5 percent to balance its $2.84-billion budget.
The House is considering a one-cent increase in the state sales tax that would be rescinded in four months, a move that the Senate opposes. There is also talk about borrowing funds earmarked for such programs as water conservation.
The budget for fiscal 1984 has not yet been formulated by the legislature, although several bills are being introduced that would increase the number of programs under the supervision of the department of education and call for increased funding.
Education bills to be considered during this session include: a proposal to count preschool children in the per-pupil expenditure accounts for special education; a bill that would raise transportation subsidies to cover rising costs; a proposal to make students liable for damage to school property; a bill that would limit state control over private schools by reducing the state's power to enforce compulsory-attendance laws; and a proposal, which the state board of education opposes, to provide for a free high-school education to students of any age who have not earned a diploma.
What many California educators are calling a "cut" in Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed education budget is actually an increase--but a smaller increase than elementary and secondary schools have been accustomed to in recent years. Because a law requiring annual 7.4-percent increases in education spending expires in June, Governor Deukmejian has recommended a 6-percent increase over this year's $8-billion allocation.
A tax increase approved earlier this session will provide no appreciable help to schools; the measure will go into effect only if fiscal 1984 revenues fall below projected levels.
State Senator Gary Hart, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, was scheduled to introduce legislation late last week to address school funding. An aide declined to provide details of the senator's revenue-raising plan. In addition, a bill has been introduced to establish an oil- severance tax.
Also in the finance area, Governor Deukmejian has proposed a block-grant system of allocating state funds for 10 programs, including bilingual education and programs for the gifted and talented, which are now funded through categorical grants. The Governor proposes $425 million for the block grant, eliminating cost-of-living increases for those programs A Republican Assemblyman, William Leonard, has also offered a block-grant proposal.
School districts, along with cities and counties, are expected to introduce a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that would earmark a fixed percentage of revenues from certain state taxes for local-government functions. The proposal would free state support of school districts and other local governments from annual legislative review.
Senator Hart, according to his aide, also planned to initiate changes in teacher certification (requiring periodic renewal of certificates); school consolidation; high-school graduation requirements; and the school calendar (increasing the school year from 175 to 180 days).
Mr. Leonard has proposed forgivable college loans for prospective teachers of science and mathematics and an optional merit-pay plan for certain teachers. He also is sponsoring a bill that would give teachers the authority to suspend unruly students from school, not just from class.
To help deal with an estimated 1982-83 budget deficit of $200 million, Arizona legislators have passed a bill that lowers the permissible growth rate of school-district budgets from the current figure of 7 percent to 4 percent this year. In coming years, according to the bill, the growth rate will be equivalent to the Gross National Product "price deflator," a figure designed to reflect current economic conditions. The deflator is currently at about 4.6 percent.
Instructional issues, such as stiffened graduation requirements and changes in teacher certification, are under consideration by the state board of education and do not require legislative action.
A projected deficit in Oklahoma's $2.73-billion budget has state education officials cutting expenditures by 4 percent for the remainder of the current fiscal year. This year's authorization level for elementary and secondary education was $765 million. Other state agencies have been asked to reduce costs by 5.5 percent.
The legislature has been discussing a proposal that would raise the ceiling on local millage rates for education purposes from 15 to 25 mills. That initiative will probably be decided by the voters later this year.
A number of proposals, such as business incentives, grants and scholarships, and summer institutes, have been introduced by state legislators to address the shortage of qualified mathematics and science teachers in the state.
Although Hawaii does not anticipate a budget deficit, Gov. George R. Ariyoshi has ordered a reduction in state expenditures that has meant the loss of $15 million to education programs, according to Edwin K. Goya, administrative assistant to the superintendent of public instruction.
To date, state officials have been able to trim the education budget through hiring freezes and other administrative measures, but it seems likely that at least $2 million will have to come from instructional programs. The state-funded education budget this fiscal year is $345 million, which represents 25 percent of all state spending.
As in previous years, the legislature also will be considering proposals to replace the current elected state board of education with an appointed body. Such proposals, however, have been unsuccessful in the past. Another perennial issue is the decentralization of the statewide system of education, the only such educational system in the nation. Proponents of local school control would like to establish local school boards to oversee the administration of educational programs instead of the current statewide board.
In Utah, where the birth rate is now twice the national average and nearly one-third of the state's population is under age 15, Gov. Scott Matheson has proposed a $100 million "action plan for quality elementary and secondary education." The initiative that was presented to the legislature would be funded through a package of revenue-raising measures that includes increasing severance taxes from 2 percent to 6 percent, raising local mill levies, and allowing a rollback in property valuations to 1978 levels.
The legislature is considering a change in the state-aid formula that is expected to win approval. The proposal would simplify the aid formula by using the average daily membership counts of local school districts. Currently state aid is calculated through enrollment and attendance figures, a formula that resulted in less money for school districts this year.
The Governor's request for support of an intensive program in mathematics, science, and technology has been submitted to the legislature, but because of the state's financial difficulties, his proposals have not received wide acceptance.