State News Roundup
Iowa legislators, who say they are now paying out $95 million a year in state funds for some 39,000 nonexistent students, have vowed to change the state's school-finance formula this year.
But the revised formula under review will increase, rather than decrease, the state's overall share of education costs, legislative leaders say.
"We're going to try to get the new finance plan in place for 1986-87," said Joseph Rasmussen, a research analyst for the Senate Democratic caucus.
Iowa districts, especially rural ones, have been hard hit in recent years by declining enrollment, Mr. Rasmussen explained. And since the current school-finance formula, which is distributed on a per-pupil basis, protects school districts from losing state aid if that would force them to cut their budgets, the state has been paying districts as if their enrollments had not declined, he said.
"Essentially, costs have been going up, but bodies have been going down," he said. At the same time, depressed land values have created ''a $200-million black hole" in local property-tax assessments, he said.
Under a revised formula being considered by legislative leaders, the state would pay for the costs of classroom instruction, including teachers' salaries, while districts would pay for non-instructional programs and overhead, Mr. Rasmus-sen said. The two would split administrative costs.
Such a plan could raise the state's share of education costs to 53 percent, Mr. Rasmussen said. Currently, the state pays slightly less than half of the $1.5-billion cost of precollegiate education, or about $707 million, he said.
Florida's master-teacher program does not violate the state's constitutional provision guaranteeing employees the right to bargain collectively, a state circuit judge has ruled.
Judge Charles E. Miner Jr. ruled that only employers have a duty to bargain with workers and that the state government, which awards merit bonuses, cannot be considered the teachers' employer.
"It seems to the court that it would be an unreasonable and unwarranted extension of Florida's public-sector employment act to characterize this as 'wages' for purposes of collective bargaining," Judge Miner wrote in his decision last month.
Lawyers for the Brevard Federation of Teachers and eight other county teachers' unions had argued in the union's lawsuit that payments attached to a master-teacher program are salary and thus disbursement of such funds must be negotiated locally.
Ralph Turlington, state superintendent of schools, praised the judge's decision, calling it "a positive factor" for the teaching profession.
Thomas Young, legal counsel for the Florida Education Association United, said the ruling would be appealed. Other lawsuits related to6both the master-teacher program and the state's merit-schools program are pending in the same court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by a man denied the right to run for the Union City board of education because he does not speak, read, or write English.
Rafael Fuentes, a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico who speaks only Spanish, filed petitions to run for the Union City board of education on the April ballot. An appeals court this month disallowed Mr. Fuentes' candidacy, after the board of education took him to court to get his name off the ballot.
Earlier, Judge Burrell Ives Humphreys of the Hudson County Superior Court had ruled that Mr. Fuentes could run for office. He said that while the law requires candidates for public office to be able to read and write, it does not specify that the language be English. The appeals court, however, ruled that "common sense" dictates that when the legislators said reading and writing, they meant reading and writing in English.
Richard D. DeLaRoche, a lawyer for the board of education, denied charges that the ruling is discriminatory and violates Mr. Fuentes' constitutional rights.
The Texas State Board of Education has sent a letter to all district superintendents notifying them that it does not plan to change the state's controversial extracurricular-eligibility law, despite pressure from legislators, educators, and parents to do so.
The "no pass/no play" rule, approved in 1984 and effective this year, bars students from extracurricular participation for six weeks if they receive one failing grade.
The state board's 10-to-3 vote last month came after weeks of pressure--by parents, educators, athletics officials, and even the state Senate--to soften the penalties associated with the law, according to James Clark, director of school liaisons for the Texas Education Agency.
The board failed to change the six-week grading period to one week, as the Senate had requested, because the state House of Representatives did not join in the request, Mr. Clark explained. "The state board said that if both houses of the legislature direct us to [change the rule], we will certainly go by their wishes."
Governor Mark White, who last month embarked on a $200,000 ad-vertising campaign in support of the rule, entered the debate when, in an attempt to seek a compromise, he suggested establishing a three-week grading period. The board, however, failed to back such a proposal; it may reconsider the rule change this summer, Mr. Clark said.
Gov. Edward DiPrete, the new Republican governor of Rhode Island, has proposed a five-year plan to increase the state's share of precollegiate education spending from 39.5 percent to 50 percent.
In fiscal 1986, the first year of the Governor's plan, state spending would increase from $219 million to $241 million, including $6.2 million more than the Governor had previously requested, according to Nancy Martin, a spokesman. The $22.7-million spending increase represents 36 percent of all spending increases Mr. DiPrete has requested for 1986.
The Governor's proposal would put most of the first-year increase into the state's school-finance formula but would set aside $2 million for flat grants to districts, according to press reports. The grants' purpose would be to encourage districts to implement the state's "Basic Education Program," a series of curriculum reforms recommended but not mandated by the state.
Governor DiPrete's plan strikes a balance between other proposals to increase state aid, one of which, forwarded by the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, would reserve half of the increase for grants. The other, a legislative proposal, would channel all new aid into the state's distribution formula.
The Governor also proposed an additional $100,000 to institute a new testing program.