Legislators Vote Tax Increases in Louisiana, Teacher Raises in Virginia
The following report is the third in a continuing series summarizing actions taken by state legislatures this year in response to calls for educational reform. (See Education Week, March 14 and 21, 1984.)
The Louisiana legislature, concluding a special session late last month, agreed to enact tax increases that would provide the state with an additional $727 million next year. The money will be used to improve the schools and to maintain other state services.
Lawmakers raised the sales tax from 3 to 4 percent and doubled the gasoline tax from 8 cents to 16 cents a gallon. They also passed a new 5-percent tax on liquor and tobacco, but rejected a similar tax on soft drinks.
The state was "not meeting its revenue projections," in part because of "declining tax income from dwindling natural resources," said David Hamilton, general counsel for the state department of education. Legislators met to "find ways to increase the revenue base."
For education, the new taxes will help "provide everything from teacher pay raises to improvement of physical plants to the cost of implementing new high-school graduation requirements," Mr. Hamilton said.
In South Dakota, most of the legislative issues relating to education were "generally housekeeping chores or special-interest legislation for smaller school districts," according to Michael A. Card, administrative assistant to the secretary of the Department of Education and Cultural Affairs.
Legislators agreed to increase state aid to schools by about $2 million, bringing the total to $66 million. To receive the aid, districts must have an average daily membership of at least 35 students at the high-school level during the previous two years. One bill enacted makes it possible for smaller districts to remain in operation provided they contract with another district to operate a high-school program by July 1, 1984.
Lawmakers rejected a proposal by Gov. William J. Janklow to provide $2 million for merit pay for teachers, although they passed a resolution to study teacher salaries, merit pay, and career ladders.
The legislature approved a bill requiring that all teachers be evaluated each semester; it also voted to raise the drinking age for 3.2 beer to 19.
The Governor's proposal to require students to attend school until they graduate was defeated by the legislature.
Last fall, the State Board of Regents passed a resolution requiring all students admitted to a four-year postsecondary program of study beginning in 1987 to have completed two years of study in a foreign language. Governor Janklow vetoed a bill enacted by the legislature that would prohibit the regents from having that authority.
All of the state education department's administrative rules, including those related to testing and the length of the school year and day, will be reviewed by the legislature this summer.
In a session that received much attention because of Gov. Charles S. Robb's interest in education, the Virginia legislature voted to provide 10-percent salary increases for teachers in each year of the next biennium.
Before adjourning in mid-March, the legislature also passed a bill providing $500,000 for the development of local pilot programs for teacher career ladders, according to Cecil F. Carter, deputy to the state secretary of education.
A master-teacher project, also approved by the lawmakers, will be tested at a new center to improve teaching techniques.
The legislators raised the state's per-pu-pil expenditure from $1,426 to $1,605 for the first year of the biennium and to $1,776 for the second year.
The legislature funded four new science and technology magnet schools included in Governor Robb's budget. The Governor had proposed spending $1.2 million on the program, but the Assembly cut almost $400,000 from the request, Mr. Carter said.
A home-schooling bill was also approved by the legislature. The bill states that home instruction complies with the Virginia's compulsory-attendance law if certain criteria are met.
The parent who is providing instruction must hold a baccalaureate degree in any subject from an accredited institution, be certified as a teacher, enroll the child in an approved correspondence program, or provide a program of study or curriculum that meets, in the judgment of the district superintendent, local learning objectives in English and mathematics, according to a spokesman for the state's legislative research office.
Under the new law, the parent must provide the superintendent with evidence of adequate student growth and progress at the end of one year.
Among other actions, the legislature also approved a new state scholarship program for outstanding high-school graduates (see related story on page 1) and a bill that urges the state department of education to develop programs to introduce guidance counseling in the state's elementary schools.--sr