Governors in 3 States Advocate Slight Increases in School Aid
Following are summaries of governors' state-of-the-state and budget messages delivered this month.
Although education continues to be primarily a local concern in New Hampshire, Gov. John Sununu has recommended a 58-percent spending increase for the state's department of education over the next two years.
The Republican Governor's proposal would raise the state's contribution to precollegiate education from $44 million in the fiscal biennium ending June 30, to $68 million in 1986-87, according to Robert L. Brunelle, the state's commissioner of education.
But it would still leave spending for primary and secondary education at less than 8 percent of total state outlays, projected at $885 million for the coming biennium. It would account for a like percentage of the total cost of precollegiate education in the state, Mr. Brunelle said.
"State aid [as a percentage of total school spending] is not dramatically increased with this increase, which is dramatic for us," Mr. Brunelle said. "There are no across-the-board increases for education in the sense that other states are talking about."
Nonetheless, the Governor, in his budget message to the legislature this month, spoke of his "strong commitment to the support of education," which he said he had "made clear" in the past two years. "Today, I proudly reiterate this commitment," he said.
Specifically, Governor Sununu embraced a proposed revision of the state's school-funding formula to account for varying district income levels. "This formula is better, fairer, and more representative than the current computation based on assessments alone," he said.
He also advocated a significant increase in foundation aid, from about $3.6 million to $5.4 million. But according to Mr. Brunelle, the Governor stopped short of endorsing legislation that could add another $15 million to the total amount of state aid directed to local districts.
The Governor's budget also allocates $5 million for three new pilot programs--one that would train teachers to use computers, another that would improve programs for gifted and talented students, and a third to develop model curricula.
It also provides funds for a new statewide student-testing program, for the development of programs for developmentally disabled and severely emotionally disturbed children, and for the expansion of the state's postsecondary vocational schools and university system.
The proposed budget would yield a $1.6-million surplus, despite the elimination of a 13.5-percent business-profits surtax and the reduction of a real-estate-transfer tax.
Gov. George Sinner, in his first budget address as the new governor, said that while he is committed to supporting elementary and secondary education, the state's poor economic condition will require some belt-tightening.
"The economy and major sources of income for our people are in tough shape," the new Democratic Governor said. "Despite strong justification for many programs in many areas and despite the clear desirability of greater salary increases, there are two general factors that restrict us. The first is that the general-fund balance can be reduced only so low. The second is that increased taxes are not only unacceptable, but more importantly unwise."
In his address earlier this month, the Governor asked for a total general-fund budget of $1.12 billion for the 1985-87 biennium, which represents an 11-percent increase over the $1-billion 1983-85 budget.
Governor Sinner also asked for $411.78 million for elementary and secondary education for the biennium, a 2.1-percent increase over the current $402.53-million biennial budget for education.
The Governor's budget also includes funding for special-education programs for 3- to 5-year-old children as mandated by the 1983 legislature, and a $350,000 appropriation to support the general operation of the North Dakota Teachers' Center Network--regional centers that provide inservice training.
Governor Sinner's budget address markedly differed from former Gov. Allen I. Olsen's Jan. 8 state-of-the-state address, which was highlighted by optimism for the state's future. The former governor called for a 5-percent increase in funding for local education in the first year of the coming biennium and a 6-percent increase in the second year.
Mr. Olsen's general-fund budget recommendation was $73 million above that of Governor Sinner, according to Robert W. Jansen, Mr. Sinner's press secretary.
Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. asked lawmakers in his state-of-the-state address this month to increase teacher salaries and approve a school building program, but he stressed that his top priority is improving West Virginia's depressed economy.
"No greater challenge faces us than that of getting our fellow West Virginians back to work," said Governor Moore. The legislature, he said, can talk about the "status" of education, the "inadequacies" of the state's highways, and the "adverse" business climate, but "none of these challenges can be addressed until we begin to solve the problems of the economy of our state."
The Governor has proposed a total state budget of $1.56 billion for fiscal 1985-86, up 4 percent over last year's $1.5 billion. Of that amount, he is seeking $723.1 million to finance the state's elementary and secondary schools, an increase of 5.7 percent--or $39.5 million--over last year's $683.6 million.
In his address, the Governor asked for a 5-percent increase in salaries and wages for all state employees, including teachers, school-support personnel, and employees in higher education. The salary in3crease for public-school teachers and support personnel would cost the state $27 million, he said.
"It is my intent to continue to provide for such increases on an annual basis without playing catch-up football to the time when our schoolteachers will be paid at the national average," the Governor said. In 1983, the average salary for a teacher in West Virginia was $17,322, which ranked it 43rd among the states, according to U.S. Education Department statistics.
Governor Moore, who regained the governorship from John D. Rockefeller 4th last November, is the first governor in the state's history to serve more than two terms, according to John L. Price, the Governor's spokesman. Governor Moore served his two previous terms between 1969 and 1977; the state's constitution limits governors to two consecutive terms.
Governor Moore also asked state lawmakers to approve and put before the voters a "school building amendment," which would provide for a building plan similar to one undertaken by the state under the Governor's previous administration. The amendment calls for an expenditure in bonds of $200 million.
Coordinated by Assistant Editor Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Blake Rodman and J.R. Sirkin.