State News Roundup
A study of the costs of implementing school reform in Illinois indicates that improvements proposed by state leaders, reform commissions, and legislators will actually cost many times more than the amount anticipated.
In the report, the Chicago Panel on Public School Finances analyzed 18 initiatives proposed by several different reform groups. The panel, which represents 17 civic organizations concerned with public-education issues, warned that "unless more realistic cost estimates are taken into account and reform programs are adequately funded, Illinois's education reform may in fact endanger and undermine" the quality of education in the state.
The panel said that proposals of the Illinois Commission on the Improvement of Elementary and Secondary Education, which call for student testing, remediation, and early-childhood-education programs, are estimated at $544 million but would actually cost the state about $1.56 billion.
Gov. James R. Thompson's proposals, estimated to cost $136 million, would cost the state $393.5 million, according to the panel, which said it based its figures on comparative costs in other states and the cost of "adequate implementation."
But Ross A. Hodel, an assistant to Governor Thompson, said the panel's projections were "high" and "misinterpret what was put into the Governor's program."
Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri has signed into law the state's "Excellence in Education Act," a comprehensive school-reform plan that will cost the state about $125 million over three years.
Under its provisions, the state will introduce a career-ladder plan, higher minimum salaries for teachers, and financial incentives for school districts to make improvements at the building level.
"This bill represents one of the finest achievements of the Missouri legislature," Governor Ashcroft told legislators, educators, and spectators who gathered at a ceremony in the Capitol late last month.
The act is expected to cost the state $2.6 million in fiscal 1986, $49.6 million in 1987, and $72.5 million for full implementation in fiscal 1988.
But to get around an amendment to the law that requires the state to add $3 in funding for the state's foundation formula for every dollar increase in funding for school reform, the Governor and legislature have agreed to "forward fund" the reform program by about $23-million next year, in addition to the $2.6 million that will actually be needed, according to Tom L. Duncan, the Governor's assistant for education and policy management.
He said the funding will be in addition to the state's foundation-formula increase for fiscal 1986, which has been set by a legislative conference committee at $102.5 million over the current $765 million. The Governor is seeking a foundation-formula increase of $50 million, Mr. Duncan said.