Tenn. Panel Approves Reform Bill
Three weeks into a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly called by Gov. Lamar Alexander to consider education reforms, the House Education Committee last week approved the Comprehensive Education Reform Act by an 11-to-3 vote.
The act includes the latest version of a career-ladder plan for teachers that Governor Alexander introduced during last year's legislative session. The legislature voted to delay action pending a year of study by its Select Committee on Education. Last fall, the committee approved the current version of the bill, which is backed by Governor Alexander.
The legislation now proceeds to the House Finance Committee and then will face a vote of the full House. In the Senate, the bill is still in the Senate Education Committee, which has rejected most of the amendments proposed by the Tennessee Education Association, according to John Parish, the Governor's press secretary. Both houses must vote on the bill and must also consider the related funding bill.
The five-year career ladder, which is the main element of the reform bill, would award annual pay supplements ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 based on performance, Mr. Parish said.
The bill also would establish stiffer education-school entrance and graduation requirements, a forgivable-loan plan for students who will teach mathematics or science for four years, and mandatory kindergarten.
The bill is part of Governor Alexander's proposed Better Schools Program, which would cost an estimated $1.1 billion over the next three years. To fund the measures, the Governor has requested a one-cent increase in the state's 4.5-percent sales tax. The increase would raise an estimated $280 million in new revenue in the 1984-85 fiscal year, Mr. Parish said.
The proposed education budget, including the Better Schools Program, is $1.8 billion, an increase of $244 million over the current level. Under the proposal, education spending will account for 52 percent of the state's total budget, compared with 49 percent last year.
Governor Alexander, who continues to seek broad support for the reform package, was scheduled to deliver a "state of education" address before the Tennessee Press Association last Friday.--ab