State News Roundup
Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will seek a 1-cent increase in the present 4.5 percent state sales tax and more business taxes to help pay for his administration's comprehensive $1.02-billion "Better Schools" program over the next three years, according to state officials.
Hubert McCoullough, the state finance commissioner, said the sales-tax increase would increase revenues by $886 million over the next three years if the state economy experiences a 6-percent growth rate. He said the proposed business taxes would give the state another $60 million to $70 million.
The tax hikes would pay for two major three-year initiatives--across-the-board increases in teachers' salaries ($280 million) and the establishment of a plan for granting incentive bonuses to teachers and administrators ($257.5 million).
The state would increase salaries by 7.5 percent in the 1984-85 school year and 5 percent in each of the following two years, Mr. McCoullough said.
Other parts of the $628.7-million package for elementary and secon-dary education would fund programs for computer literacy, kindergarten, mathematics and science education, gifted-student education, vocational education, instructional materials, transportation, maintenance, and testing.
The state senate's education committee deferred action on the Governor's controversial incentive-pay plan until the 1984 session, after an intense lobbying effort by the Tennessee Education Association.
Florida's school districts may lose $22 per student in state funds if a survey that projects significant overenrollment proves correct, officials say.
The survey of the state's 10 largest districts and fastest-growing counties, conducted by Henry Boekhoff, an assistant principal in the Palm Beach County Schools, has estimated that about 6,000 more students than expected have enrolled in the district's schools this fall.
A $20-million reserve fund, created for such an emergency, has already been exhausted this year, said Carey Farrell, the state's director of school planning, budgeting, and evaluation. Costs for unbudgeted students would be paid for by a statewide cutback of about $22 per student, he said, adding that final figures on enrollment will be in this week.
The state is experiencing enrollment increases for the first time in about five years, Mr. Farrell said, noting that next year the state's schools are expected to enroll about 30,000 more students.
For the second time in as many years, a survey of 200 Mississippi business executives has indicated that the state's educational system and a shortage of skilled workers are the two main problems curtailing the growth of business in the state.
The survey, which is conducted by the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration, polls some 200 managers and executives representing a cross-section of manufacturing firms in the state. The respondents were asked to evaluate the state educational system's preparation of students for further education or positions in business and industry.
According to a university spokesman, kindergarten received "below-average" or "far-below-average" rating in the survey; and grades 1 to 6 received "below-average" or "average" marks. The state's junior high and high schools were rated as "below average" by more than 60 percent of the respondents, the spokesman said.
More than two-thirds of those responding to the survey rated the state's universities as "average" and about half of them rated the community colleges and vocational-technical schools as "no more than average."
The survey also found that most of the respondents favored more emphasis on English, mathematics, and science in elementary and secondary schools.
In the aftermath of a severe earthquake that damaged or destroyed some public schools, as well as many businesses and homes, in Idaho, the state's governor has asked President Reagan to declare the entire state a disaster area.
"We don't have the financial resources at the state level, nor do the local schools have the financial resources," said Gov. John V. Evans, to repair or rebuild the structures damaged during the Oct. 28 earthquake.
The tremor, which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale in some areas, caused such serious damage to a number of public schools in the state, the Governor said, that many students have been forced to stay at home or attend class in temporary quarters.
The requested federal-disaster declaration would allow school districts to receive grants for 100 percent of the cost to repair or rebuild all damaged buildings.
Although many damage reports are not yet in, according to Darrell Waller, state disaster-services coordinator, the repair estimates for schools so far suggest that the damage to buildings has been extensive. He reported, for example, that it will cost $3.5 million to make repairs at the state School for the Deaf and Blind in Gooding, up to $2 million to repair a high school in Challis, and another $500,000 for the Mackay High School in Mackay.