Governors in Six States Propose Funding Increases for Education
Following are summaries of state-of-the-state and budget messages delivered by governors in recent weeks.
Last year must be viewed as the year Delaware "put education--including higher education--at the top of its list of priorities and decided to keep it there," the state's new governor said in his state-of-the-state address last month.
"In the months to come," Gov. Michael N. Castle told legislators, ''the debate on education will no doubt center on 'how much'--how much in pay raises, how much for equalization, how much will the mastery test cost.
"Today," he continued, "you and I must reaffirm our commitment to 'how well'--how well our teachers teach, how well our young people learn, and how well our graduates perform once they leave the public-school system."
Governor Castle told lawmakers that this year he plans to implement a career-ladder plan and a mastery-testing program "designed to show whether our students have learned the skills needed to take on new educational challenges."
The Governor is seeking $4 million in 1985-86 for the first year of the career-ladder plan, including increases in base salaries and performance incentives. A committee studying mastery tests for promotion is expected to report this spring.
Last week, the Governor proposed an $853.4-million 1985-86 state budget, which includes a 6.7-percent increase in funds for schools--from $272.6 million in fiscal 1984 to $290.8 million. The increase includes the addition of the 104 positions--including 99 teachers--required to respond to a recent enrollment increase, according to Jeffrey Welsh, the Governor's press secretary.
In addition to the career-ladder plan, the Governor is proposing a 4.3-percent salary increase for all state employees, including teachers. He is also requesting a $2.9-million increase in equalization funds; $1.2 million to lower the mandated class size in grades 1-3 from 19 to 18; and $300,000 to expand teacher-training programs in areas of critical shortage, Mr. Welsh said.
"We must [also] demand the 'no-cost' items on our education-improvement list," the Governor told lawmakers. Those, he added, include better attendance, higher homework standards, additional time on core curriculum and basic subjects, and better discipline.
"We must find ways to assure that businesses and the community play a greater part in our education system," the Governor said, "and that parents participate in their schools and set standards at home."
Calling education the state's "great equalizer," Gov. George Ariyoshi recommended a substantial increase in school aid in his address to legislators late last month.
The Governor proposed $352.8 million for elementary and secondary education for fiscal 1986, up from this year's $344.3 million. He also said he would like lawmakers to raise the total education budget by $5 million if, "after careful consideration, you believe that more dollars will bring substantial returns."
"Our educational system has helped get us get where we are," the Governor said. "We can bring in silicon chips and computers, we can put up handsome buildings, but in the end, we must look to today's students for tomorrow's successes."
The Governor recommended that the state department of education focus on high-quality education, particularly on improving student-teacher relationships. The departel5lment, he said, should "be willing to change the existing distribution of resources" if needed.
The Governor also announced a Governor's Conference on Education, scheduled for the spring, as a forum to "develop ideas that might enhance our education programs at every level."
Calling Michigan "the comeback state," Gov. James J. Blanchard told lawmakers that education is crucial to maintaining the economic upswing and is still a top priority of his administration.
Consequently, while asking for a budget that would freeze state spending at last year's level, he proposed exempting school spending.
Addressing the 83rd legislature late last month, the Governor put his emphasis on ways to further encourage Michigan's economic recovery and to protect the state's environment.
He asked for an increase of 9.3 percent in per-pupil state support to schools. That would bring the total for elementary and secondary education to $1.44 billion out of a total state budget request of $10 billion, state officials say.
"This increase represents a con-tinued boost not only in dollars, but in education's importance in the total state budget," Governor Blanchard said. "In light of low--and declining--federal support for education, this increase in state funding is critical."
In his address, Governor Blanchard also drew heavily from the work of the Governor's Educational Summit Task Force, a blue-ribbon commission he appointed last fall to make proposals for his 1985 legislative agenda.
The key recommendation the Governor presented is for support to develop pilot early-education programs. "Four-year-olds all across the state should receive a positive orientation to the social and academic challenges they will soon face," he said.
Governor Blanchard also recommended expanding the state's student-testing and assessment programs, saying "more information on the program should be provided to teachers, the general public, parents, and students."
Governor Blanchard's other recommendations included: voluntary state accreditation for elementary and secondary schools; better coordination and more effective use of high technology in schools; required professional-development programs for K-12 teachers and principals; greater cooperation between schools and the private sector; and a competitive grant program for districts in need of extra funding for school-safety programs.
Nevada's future can only be "as bright as its children's future," Gov. Richard H. Bryan said in his biennial message to the legislature late last month.
To ensure the brightness of that future, the Governor proposed an increase of $114 million above the 1983-85 biennial budget for the state's educational programs.
Of the new general-fund money contained in his budget proposal of $474.8 million for fiscal 1986, 75 cents of each new dollar is invested in education, he said.
In his address, Governor Bryan asked the legislature to consider the report of the Governor's Commission on Educational Excellence and its recommendations for improving education in Nevada. He said that on the basis of the report, he was asking for an 11-percent salary in-crease for teachers during the first year of the biennium and an additional 4-percent increase in the second year.
"Important as these increases are, they are but the first step in a long-range plan to make the salaries for Nevada's teachers rank in the top 10 in the nation," he said.
He also encouraged the legislators to support an estate tax-credit amendment that would provide "long-term funding for education."
The Governor also asked for a 23.9-percent increase in funding for special-education programs and a $10-million appropriation for school districts to purchase upgraded instructional materials, in particular computers and equipment for vocational-education programs.
"If we fail to prepare our children for the growing challenges of an increasingly complex world, we will be unable to sustain our present level of prosperity or to fully enjoy the benefits of the new technology of the future," he said.
Gov. Richard W. Riley told legislators that the state can take pride in its advances in education reform, but said it is time to turn to the important task of improving South Carolina's job-training system.
"We all can be proud of the great statement made last year when we declared that our children and their future capacity will always be South Carolina's number-one priority," the Governor said, referring to the Education Improvement Act. "I'm proud to report that last year's investment in quality public education is already reaping rich dividends for our children," among them, he said, a marked decrease in student-dropout rates.
But the Governor told a joint session of the 106th General Assembly that lawmakers must now turn their attention to other equally difficult but important decisions. "Two years ago, I pledged that education and jobs would be the top priorities of my second term as Governor," he said. "We have embarked on the road to quality education. Now we must turn our attention, with equal energy, in the direction of jobs."
Governor Riley called on legislators to encourage and support the creation of jobs by the private sector and to help train workers to take advantage of them. Noting that the state will spend about $400 million on job training this year, the Governor said: "Just as a model technical-education system was central to a new economic-development policy 25 years ago, now we must under-take a similar new direction in our total job-training efforts."
The Governor said he has appointed a panel of businessmen, educators, and legislators to develop legislative recommendations over the next two months on how best to redirect the state's activities.
The Governor also said he would soon propose legislation on missing children, child abuse, child health care, and raising the drinking age for beer and wine to 21.
The proposed state budget, which was developed by a five-member board that includes the Governor, was presented to the legislature last month. It calls for a 1985-86 general-fund budget of $2.54 billion, plus $231.5 million to fund the second year of the Education Improvement Act, according to Jesse Coles, director of the state budget division. The request for elementary and secondary education is $902 million.
Madeleine Kunin, Vermont's newly elected Democratic governor, stressed the need for increased state aid to education in her first budget address to the legislature last month.
"Public education has depended on the property tax, but taxpayers are justifiably unwilling to tolerate increases in a tax that is regressive, inequitable, and difficult to administer," the state's first woman governor told the legislature.
"As we have tried to respond to educational needs, our property-tax levels have soared. When compared to our personal income, the property-tax burden assessed on Vermonters is the eleventh highest in the nation."
The Governor outlined a three-part solution to the problem. She said she plans to increase state aid to education by 20 percent, institute a $5-million revenue-sharing program; and enact a program to defer property taxes for senior citizens.
However, Governor Kunin said that because of a $36-million deficit, the programs can not start immediately. She plans to phase them in over the next year.
The Governor recommended that the revenue-sharing program start Jan. 1, 1986, with $2.5 million disbursed in fiscal 1986 and the full $5-million the next year.
Altogether, Governor Kunin proposed a $78.7-million budget for elementary and secondary education for 1985-86 and $89.4 million for 1986-87--up from the 1984-85 budget of $70.9 million.
"The philosophical basis for each of the interventions is the same--we must lighten the property-tax burdens by using state revenues, acquired from fairer taxes, to substitute for revenues from the property tax," Governor Kunin said.
In addition, the Governor proposed increasing the Vermont cigarette tax by 8 cents to provide for increased aid to education and the revenue-sharing program.
The Governor offered two other education proposals to the legislature: a kindergarten-incentive fund of $500,000 so that start-up costs for districts that want to offer kindergarten can be shared by the state, and a $100,000 grant program for teacher-inservice programs.
Coordinated by Assistant Editor Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Linda Chion-Kenney, Cindy Currence, Alina Tugend, and Pamela Winston.