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Wisconsin Governor Urges Boards To Support Reforms

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Gov. Anthony S. Earl of Wisconsin this month admonished local school boards not to press the tradition of local control at the expense of needed efforts to enhance education statewide.

In the last few months, school boards have expressed opposition to new state-mandated minimum high-school graduation requirements. Proposed by Governor Earl and approved by the legislature last April, the requirements were the subject of three statewide hearings last week.

Local boards have also resisted other policy changes--including proposed reading-competency tests at the 4th-grade level--that will be contained in the Governor's budget proposal to the legislature in January, according to Nancy Wenzel, the Governor's education-policy advisor.

"When talking about quality indicators, we may be talking about more mandates," she said.

Improve Education

In a speech to a school administrators' group in Madison, Governor Earl said he would attempt in his budget for the 1985-87 biennium to provide more money for schools both as a means to relieve property taxes and to improve the quality of education, according to Ms. Wenzel.

And he urged the education community to help enact the budget instead of opposing measures that increase the state's say in education matters. "It was a gentle nudging [of local boards] on the Governor's part," Ms. Wenzel said.

Wisconsin relies to a greater extent than many other states on local property taxes to support education, Ms. Wenzel said. The Governor's budget proposal will attempt to shift the funding proportion so that there will be greater balance between what the state pays and what is paid through local property taxes. Currently, the state pays 39.5 percent of local education costs, she said. The national average is between 45 percent and 52 percent, Ms. Wenzel added.

"For every dollar he puts into education, the Governor wants to make sure at least half of it goes to property-tax relief," Ms. Wenzel said.

When the graduation requirements were first proposed by the6Governor last year, the Wisconsin School Boards Association strongly opposed them on the grounds that they limited local control, according to George Tipler, executive director of the wsba

Revised Version

A revised version of the requirements allowing for greater local flexibility received more support from the association, according to Mr. Tipler, who has pledged that local boards will cooperate with the new requirements.

Under the graduation plan, school districts must require that students take four credits in English, three in social studies, two in both mathematics and science, one and a half in physical education, and one-half in both computer science and health education, for a total of 13.5 credits, beginning with seniors graduating in the spring of 1989.

The plan also encourages local school boards to require at least 8.5 additional credits in a number of courses, including vocational education and foreign languages. (See Education Week, April 18, 1984.) Currently, graduation requirements are established by local boards of education.

Putting the graduation requirements in place will cost districts an estimated $5.2 million, state officials estimate, with funding to be provided by the state school-aid fund and local districts.

"[Governor Earl] said the boards weren't moving as fast as he would like," Mr. Tipler said of the Governor's speech. "And maybe we aren't." But he added that the boards will "cooperate and we'll make every effort to make sure our people are in compliance" with the requirements, which are scheduled to be published in final form later this month.

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