Governors Seek Increase in Education Funding
Following are summaries of governors' state-of-the-state and budget messages that have been delivered in recent weeks.
Gov. Robert Graham has proposed increasing state funding for public schools by 6.4 percent next year, to $3.0 billion, and by a slightly smaller percentage, to $3.2 billion, the year after.
The proposed budget, which the Governor presented at a press conference on Feb. 14, provides enough money to give every teacher in Florida a raise of approximately 6.9 percent next year and 8.3 percent the year after. All other school staff members would receive a raise of approximately 5 percent in each of the next two years.
Those raises are in addition to a substantial increase in the state's merit-pay program for teachers. That program would grow by $13.3 million next year--for a total cost of $23.3 million--and by $6.4 million the year after, according to Charles R. Sanders, the Governor's policy analyst for elementary and secondary education.
The increased budget for schools anticipates a growing precollegiate population. Over the next two years, Florida's schools must accommodate more than 35,000 new students, according to state estimates.
Governor Graham said that improving education in Florida is still his top priority, followed by efforts to protect the state's environment. Over the next two years, education will receive $4 out of every $10 the state government spends. The Governor proposed $6.8 billion in general-revenue funds for all state activities in 1985-86, and $7.4 billion in 1986-87.
The Governor proposed several changes in the state's tobacco-related taxes to help finance the state budget, including state assumption of the federal cigarette tax of 8 cents per package, which is scheduled to expire in October.
Other items in the Governor's budget for precollegiate education6include: $27.9 million to improve writing skills in grades 9-12; $25 million to renovate science laboratories (an increase of $15 million over the current year's spending); and $4.8 million to provide each school with a microcomputer and software to help teachers reduce paperwork, Mr. Sanders said.
Governor Graham also proposed raising tuition for college students at state universities by 12.7 percent in 1985-86 and by 25.2 percent in 1986-87, so that tuition would contribute 20 percent to the cost of higher education. The Governor stated that the increase would be less than $100 per year per student.
North Carolina's new governor, James G. Martin, told the legislature late last month that he will stick by his campaign pledge to cut taxes. But he also promised to make 1985 the "year of the child" and to increase support for education.
Governor Martin replaced former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., a prominent ''education governor." It was under Governor Hunt's administration that the state passed its sweeping school-reform bill in 1984.
According to Charles H. Hughes, director of research in the Governor's office, Governor Martin intends to be an equally strong leader on children's issues.
The Governor told the legislature that he will seek elimination of business taxes on inventory and intangibles, as well as a 3-percent sales tax on food and nonprescription medicine. The tax cuts would reduce revenues by almost $1.2 billion over the next four years, he said.
But he maintained that growth in the state's economy would permit the tax cuts without cutting funds for most state programs. The one exception in his budget is state funding for abortion, which would be limited to cases involving rape, incest, or a risk to the mother's life.
The Governor's proposal calls for $519 million in new funds in 1985-86, which would increase the general revenue to $4.83 billion. He has proposed $760 million in new money in 1986-87.
He has proposed increasing the education outlay, currently at $2.197 billion, by $116 million over the next two years, with $75 million of that increase coming next year.
The Governor's plans include a 5-percent salary increase for teachers; a reduction in class size for grades 7-9; remedial summer school for 3rd graders who score poorly on the state's competency test; the creation of a "teacher-advancement center" at Western Carolina University; microcomputer laboratories in every school; and $15 million in new funds for elementary-school textbooks.
The Governor also endorsed the state board of education's proposal to pilot a career-ladder program in 16 school districts next year at a cost of $12.4 million. The Governor said that at least a second and possibly a third year will be needed to work out all the details of the program. "We must not force this prematurely if we want to build confidence both inside as well as outside the classroom," he stated. His current budget calls for statewide implementation of the career ladder beginning in the fall of 1987.
Governor Martin also announced that he will introduce an 11-part package of measures to deal with "the tragedy of abducted, lost, disappeared, or otherwise missing children." A companion bill will propose seven steps to "combat the exploitation and sexual or other physical abuse of children."
Coordinated by Assistant Editor Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Lynn Olson.