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Governors Outline Education Agendas as Legislators Convene

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Assistant Editor Anne Bridgman coordinated this summary, with reporting by Cindy Currence, Linda Chion-Kenney, Blake Rodman, Alina Tugend, and Michael Fallon in California.


With the opening of the new state legislative season, some governors are asking lawmakers to complete an education agenda set last year, and some are making fresh proposals. Among the state-of-the-state messages in recent days:

CALIFORNIA


Gov. George Deukmejian, declaring that California's "renaissance in education funding and reforming is perhaps the most significant change in state policy in this decade," has proposed a boost of more than $1 billion in spending for public elementary and secondary schools.

The 1985-86 state budget that he submitted to the legislature allocates $10.7 billion in state general funds for education--38.4 percent of the $27.9 billion in general funds projected to be available.

Last year, the Governor proposed an allocation of $9.6 billion--38.3 percent of the $25.1 billion then projected in general funds.

With the addition of revenue from local property taxes and the state lottery approved by voters in November, public schools would have total expenditures of $13.7 billion in 1985-86, a 10.6-percent increase over the $12.4 billion they received last year.

School officials expect to receive an additional $4 billion in federal funds next year, about the same as in 1984-85.

The Governor's televised message forecast K-12 per-pupil expenditures at $3,065 in 1985-86, up from $2,825 in 1984-85.

Key features of Governor Deukmejian's proposal provide:

Funds for reforms initiated in a 1983 law, including $105 million for the second phase of a plan to lengthen the school day, $7 million for the maintenance of stipends for mentor teachers, $2 million to expand a training and evaluation program for administrators, and $1.2 million for a new writing-skills component to the state testing program.

$731.1 million for cost-of-living increases, generally 5.95 percent, for programs receiving statutory cost-of-living increases and 4 percent for programs receiving discretionary increases.

$243.2 million from the $300 million the state lottery is expected to yield for schools and higher education in its first year, with a recommendation that the money pay for nonrecurring expenses such as textbooks and science-lab equipment.

A $60-million supplement to "address the most immediate of the unmet needs" in special education--the first phase of a three-year, $180-million package to improve the program.

Full funding for increases in K-12 enrollment above the current level of 4.2 million students.

CONNECTICUT


In his state-of-the-state message last week, Gov. William O'Neill discussed plans to reduce the state's sales tax and a possible hike in the legal drinking age but said he would outline his specific education proposals in the next few weeks.

The Governor, a Democrat, told a joint session of the Republican-dominated legislature that he would call for a reduction in Connecticut's sales tax from 7.5 percent to 7 percent on April 1. The Governor said he was asking the legislature for the decrease because of a $188-million surplus in the 1984-85 state budget so far this year.

The Governor also said he would seek legislation raising the legal drinking age from 20 to 21.

The Governor told the legislature he planned to offer an education proposal that would:

Provide nearly 700 new places in Connecticut's vocational and technical schools,

Increase funds for teacher-training programs, and

Launch an aggressive maintenance and construction program that "will place Connecticut among the leaders in state-funded public higher education."

Governor O'Neill also said he would support full funding of the guaranteed tax-base grant, the amount the state gives to local communities to equalize education funding. The Governor is asking for $454 million for the tax-base grant for fiscal 1985-86, about $38 million more than was funded last year.

Lise Heintz, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education, said the state board has requested $800 million for elementary and secondary education for the next fiscal year.

Last year's education budget was $688.2 million out of a total state budget of $3.6 billion. Ms. Heintz said the Governor would not release his budget figures until mid-February.

IDAHO


Education will continue to be Idaho's "greatest program commitment,'' Gov. John Evans said last week in his state-of-the-state address.

The Governor congratulated legislators for making "great strides" in improving the state's funding support for local school districts and said that his proposed fiscal 1986 budget would provide 73 percent of total funds for Idaho public schools, up from 71.8 percent in fiscal 1985.

This fiscal year, higher education and elementary and secondary education will consume $409 million of the state's general fund of $549 million, according to Bradley Foltman, a financial-management analyst for the Governor.

And in his proposed fiscal 1986 budget of about $600 million, Governor Evans has recommended fund-ing education at $443 million.

"Even at [the 1985 level], a figure which is well above the national average, our local schools still have unmet funding needs," he said.

He added that the "critical" needs of higher education must also be recognized, noting that "a quality college and university system is essential to our state's future growth."

"If we are unable to supply the training required by Idaho industries, it will be difficult for us to retain our existing industries and to attract new growth," he said.

The Governor's budget, which allocates $89 million to higher education and $305 million to elementary and secondary education, "addresses the immediate critical needs of higher education." He added that if additional revenue were to become available, funding for higher education would be given "top priority."

The Governor told Idaho citizens that he could report "positive improvement" in the overall state of Idaho's economy. "Recovery is taking place rather slowly, however, we do expect a 5-percent increase in tax revenues next year," he said.

NEW JERSEY


Although the environment figured prominently in Gov. Thomas H. Kean's state-of-the-state message, education nonetheless remains a very significant part of the Governor's program for 1985, according to Paul G. Wolcott, a spokesman for Mr. Kean.

"The thrust this year," Mr. Wolcott said, "is that 1985 be the year in which we focus on teachers."

The Governor asked the legislature to establish a minimum salary of $18,500 for teachers, a measure he also proposed last year. The average salary for teachers in New Jersey is now $14,800, according to Kathy Gallaher, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association.

Before the Republican Governor gave his address last week, however, the Democrat-controlled Assembly approved two bills that would establish a minimum $18,500 salary for all teachers and would require the state to reimburse districts for the difference between the new salary and the 1983-84 beginning salary.

Unlike the Governor's proposal, the Assembly version includes an "escalator clause" that provides for an annual increase based on the increase in the state's per-capita income. As a result, the minimum teacher's salary for 1985-86 would be about $20,000, according to Assemblyman Joseph V. Doria, the sponsor of the bills.

In his 53-page address, the Governor also called for action that would:

Expand the state's master-teacher program, which, Mr. Wolcott said, faced political opposition last year and is scheduled to be field-tested in only two school districts next fall. Under the program, districts can nominate up to 5 percent of their faculty for an extra $5,000 a year if those teachers work an additional 20 days to instruct other teachers.

Establish a "maxi-grant" program that would provide up to $15,000 to individual teachers for the development of techniques to improve learning. The Governor, Mr. Wolcott said, is proposing up to 30 such grants for fiscal 1985-86.

Launch an "aggressive" effort to recruit 100 top college graduates each year into the teaching profession by offering to redeem their student-tuition loans in return for their service to New Jersey public schools.

Financial details of the Governor's proposed programs will be outlined in his budget address on Jan. 28. Some legislative officials estimate that the state budget will have a starting surplus of between $500 and $700 million.

NEW YORK


Gov. Mario M. Cuomo last week urged New York legislators to spend $1 million to create specialized "high schools of excellence" around the state, $60 million to promote excellence in teaching, and $26 million to increase funding for the purchase of computer hardware and software.

In the Governor's state-of-the-state address to the 208th session of the legislature, he proposed a $1.2-billion tax cut and called upon the legislature to increase spending for primary and secondary education from the current $5.4 billion to more than $5.7 billion a year, according to Cornelius J. Foley, the Governor's assistant secretary for education. The State Board of Regents had requested $634 million--twice the proposed increase.

The Governor will detail his budget plan on Jan. 22. Last year, the legislature voted the largest school-aid increase in the state's history--more than $500 million, Mr. Foley said.

Mr. Cuomo's proposed education programs were detailed in an 82-page printed message that accompanied the Governor's state-of-the-state address, in which Mr. Cuomo made only passing reference to the "exciting new programs in education."

The "excellence-in-teaching" program would make available to the state's 700 public-school districts funds to raise starting salaries for teachers, reduce class sizes, create student-discipline programs, or create student-internships for beginning teachers.

The funds for excellent high schools would support competitive planning grants for specialized high schools--fashioned after the Bronx High School of Science--in 8 to 10 regions throughout the state.

The computer funds would reimburse local school districts for purchases of computer hardware, a program established last year upon the Governor's recommendation, and an increase in the computer-software reimbursement program from $2.50 per student--or $8 million last year--to $5 per student--or $16 million this year.

The Governor also proposed early-intervention remediation programs for students in grades K-6.

And he asked for a phasing out of the "save-harmless" aid-formula that assures that a school district will receive the same amount of aid next year that it receives this year, Mr. Foley said.

The formula, the Governor said, "diverts funds from the districts that most need them and gives these scarce resources to districts of above-average wealth with declining enrollments."

OKLAHOMA


Jobs and education are the "number one" priorities of Oklahoma, Gov. George Nigh said in his state-of-the-state message last week.

The Governor also called for higher educational standards. "A diploma should mean something," he said. "We need to test our students, we need to monitor them as they proceed, and check up on them to see if we're preparing them."

In his address, the Governor said his proposed fiscal 1986 budget for elementary and secondary education is $786 million, an increase of $77 million over last year's appropriation.

The additional funds requested would be used primarily to fund a $43-million program to increase every teacher's salary by $1,000 and to fund an $8-million career-ladder plan, according to Carolyn Smith, an aide to the Governor.

The Governor also proposed a $2-million student-testing program, a $3-million increase in textbook funding, and an $11-million increase in the public-schools operations budget, Ms. Smith said.

To fund the $2.4-billion state budget Governor Nigh has proposed for fiscal 1986--$201 million above the current budget level--the Governor suggested that the legislature adopt a permanent sales tax of 3 percent and that the state institute a lottery.

"Yes, it is an increase," he said, "but the budget puts $207 million into economic development and education programs alone."

And if the legislature wants to trim his budget, education will be hardest hit, he said, adding that "the bucks are in education."

He also questioned the state's commitment to education and chastized the legislature for failing to raise taxes for five years in a row prior to fiscal 1985.

"It is a fact that we had to raise taxes [last year] and it is a fact today that this is 'Decision Day' once again; we're going to decide where our ship of state sails," he said.

RHODE ISLAND


Edward I. DiPrete, Rhode Island's first Republican Governor in 16 years, said in his state-of-the-state address that he is "committed to expanding the technological resources in our public schools to ensure that our children are prepared to meet the challenges they will face in this ever-changing world."

In his message to the legislature, Governor DiPrete also reiterated his support for the state's "Basic Education Program," which is intended to define what each school district must provide in its curriculum, support services, and management. The program, still in its pilot stage, is scheduled to begin next September.

Aides to the Governor also said he strongly supports a proposal by the state department of education to increase state education aid to local communities by more than $30 million over the next five years. Under the plan, the state would raise its share of the cost of education from the current level of 39.5 percent to 50 percent by the early 1990's.

However, Governor DiPrete did not propose any budget estimates for education in his speech, and aides said a budget will not be presented to the legislature until mid-February. Last year's budget for elementary and secondary education was $230.9 million out of a total state budget of $964.7 million.

WYOMING


Gov. Ed Herschler of Wyoming in his opening statement to the legislature asked lawmakers to pass a proposed $1-million omnibus bill that would reflect several of the recommendations presented last September by the state's Blue Ribbon Committee on Quality Education to Lynn Simons, state superintendent.

Although the Governor's education budget is still under preparation, he is expected to ask for about $10 million more for education than the $187.5 million appropriated last year, according to a state department of education spokesman. More than $6 million of that is expected to go to special-education and transportation programs.

While the state operates on a biennial budget, the legislature approves foundation expenditures for education each year. The state's total biennial budget for 1984-86 is $2.1 billion.

In the "Blue Ribbon Legislation," as the omnibus bill will be called, Governor Herschler is seeking scholarships for experienced teachers to improve their professional skills, stipends for classroom teachers who supervise student teachers, and additional funds to add five professional days to the school calendar for inservice training.

The Governor has also endorsed changes in the Wyoming School Foundation Program that were recommended by Ms. Simons and the Wyoming Board of Education.

The foundation program, which finances the state's elementary and secondary education system, is controlled by the legislature; it receives revenue from property taxes, mineral royalties, a car tax, and "recapture" funds, excess monies redistributed from wealthy to poor districts.

The Governor is also seeking a $1,000 increase in the "classroom-unit value" used to determine how much state aid districts receive. Districts receive aid according to the number of classroom units, but the number of students that make up a classroom unit varies from district to district according to its size.

Each district currently receives $73,000 from the state for every classroom unit. The proposed increase would cost about $3 million.

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