State News Roundup
An advisory committee of the Texas State Board of Education has approved a school-finance model that would consider teachers' salaries in the distribution of state education aid.
The econometric model, called the "price-differential index," was developed in response to a legislative mandate set as part of the Educational Opportunity Act of 1984, the omnibus reform bill enacted last summer. The model, an attempt to provide greater equalization between wealthy and poor districts, takes into consideration nine factors in analyzing teachers' salaries, according to Lynn Moak, a consultant to the board panel.
Among the factors are teacher characteristics, such as degree status and experience; the wealth and tax effort of the district; and elements such as the number of students per square mile and the average local wage level for all sectors other than education, Mr. Moak said.
The state board was scheduled to consider the finance committee's proposal at a meeting late last week, according to Maria Elena Flood, director of the finance committee. If the board approves the proposal, it will proceed to the legislature; if passed there, the legislature would apply the formula to the distribution of more than $600 million per year for the next biennium, she said.
School districts and teachers' unions must address the timing and effective date of teacher layoffs in collective-bargaining sessions, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled.
Justice Shirley Abrahamson's ruling last month in West Bend Joint School District No. 1 v. West Bend Education Association effectively prohibits school boards and districts from unilaterally determining when a layoff notice must be given and when the layoff would start, according to Dwain Ehrlich, West Bend's superintendent of schools. Mr. Ehrlich said the district has always addressed the timing and effective date of layoffs in bargaining sessions.
The ruling allows districts to decide unilaterally whether a layoff is necessary in the first place.
The union had sought a guarantee that layoffs coincide with the renewal of teaching contracts and that the same notice be given for layoffs as is required by law for nonrenewal of contracts, Mr. Ehrlich said. But the court did not address that situation. Union officials were unavailable for comment.
Gov. Robert Graham and his Cabinet members, acting in their role as the state board of education, have approved a proposed education budget for fiscal 1985-87 of $9.6 billion.
The recommended two-year budget provides $413 million in general increases for school staff members, including an average pay raise of 14 percent for teachers that would place Florida's salaries in the upper quartile for the nation, according to Charles R. Sanders, the Governor's policy analyst for schools.
The budget also proposes increasing funds for Florida's master-teacher and "merit-schools" programs.
The state's general revenue for public-school funding is currently $2.75 billion. If the legislature approves the recommended budget, that figure would grow to $3.27 billion for fiscal 1985-86 and $3.57 billion for fiscal 1986-87, according to Mr. Sanders.
However, Governor Graham has cautioned that proposals currently before the Florida legislature to cut the state's corporate taxes could hurt efforts to improve education in Florida. A special session of the legislature, scheduled to begin last week, was to consider a proposal to repeal Florida's unitary tax on business profits, a tax on corporations' earnings outside the state.
According to Mr. Sanders, Governor Graham has warned that any cuts in the tax, which helps support education in the state, could hamper educational reform unless such cuts were replaced by other sources of revenue.
Illinois's public schools will receive more than $XX million in back taxes paid by delinquent taxpayers during a two-month amnesty period that ended on Nov. 30.
The amnesty program, which was initiated last summer by state Senate President Philip J. Rock of Chicago, is patterned after a similiar effort in Massachusetts. Under the program, delinquent taxpayers who qualified for the amnesty were freed of civil penalties and were charged only half the regular interest on their back taxes. Stiffer penalties for failure to pay state taxes went into effect when the amnesty period expired.
The General Assembly last summer appropriated $20 million in anticipated amnesty revenue for public schools.
But the State Department of Revenue received a flood of requests for amnesty as the deadline approached, producing more than double the amount of money anticipated when the program was enacted last June.
Legislation passed by the Senate and pending in the House would earmark another $22.7 million from the amnesty windfall for school funding. A portion of the tax receipts must be allocated to local governments under state law.
An Idaho state representative, moved by the plight of six parents in the state who have been jailed over their attempt to teach their children at home, has expressed his intention to launch a legislative campaign against the state's compulsory-attendance law.
Representative Robert M. Forrey said last week that when the Idaho legislature convenes next month, he will introduce a bill striking down a state law requiring home instruction to meet public-school standards. The bill would prohibit the state from interfering with parents' freedom to choose "how, where, and by whom their children are taught and cared for," except in cases where the physical safety of children is threatened, Mr. Forrey said.
Mr. Forrey said he decided to introduce the bill after six parents from New Plymouth were jailed recently on six-month sentences for contempt of court after refusing to abide by the state law.
A judge in Payette County Court was scheduled to decide last week whether the 41 children of the three couples involved must be placed in state institutions or foster homes while their parents serve their jail sentences.
The Oklahoma Council on Science and Technology has voted unanimously to recommend to the governor and legislature that they raise state taxes, if necessary, to improve Oklahoma's education system.
The 21-member council was created by Gov. George Nigh and the legislature in July of 1983 to assess the business climate in Oklahoma and to make recommendations for increasing the number of high-technology businesses in the state.
The panel, made up of educators, government officials, and several leading businessmen, approved a measure to "encourage the Governor and the legislature to take whatever measures are necessary to avoid a reduction in education funding and to raise money needed to fund reforms," said Sherri S. Stickley, the staff director to the council.
"Oklahoma's educational system cannot meet the needs of future economic developement with the present level of funding," the council noted in a draft of its report to Governor Nigh. "Indeed, at present funding levels it is quickly becoming impossible to provide quality education for existing programs."
The council's report is expected to be submitted to the Governor by February.