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Survey Finds School Aid Remains Top Budget Issue at State Level

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Spending on elementary and secondary education will consume more than a third of aggregate state general-fund spending in fiscal 1986, as education remains by far the leading budget issue in the states, according to a survey of state legislative fiscal officers.

State spending on schools will rise by 8.6 percent in fiscal 1986, compared with an overall spending increase of 6.8 percent, the report states. Spending on higher education will rise by 8.3 percent.

As a percentage of aggregate general-fund expenditures, precollegiate education will account for 33.5 percent, up from 32.8 percent in fiscal 1985, according to the survey.

The survey, conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, confirms many of the state spending and tax patterns recently reported in a survey of state budget officers. (See Education Week, Aug. 21, 1985.)

States are being cautious in their budgeting, setting aside funds in "rainy-day" accounts and reducing the rate of spending increases, it reports. More states raised taxes than cut them, but taxes were cut by $1.1- billion overall. Nonetheless, growth in tax revenue in fiscal 1986 is projected at 5.3 percent.

In 34 states, education was identified as a leading budget issue, and in 15 of those it was the single leading budget issue, according to the report. Child-protection services and day care emerged as leading budget issues in seven states, including Maine, where they were cited as the single most important budget issues.

Eighteen states increased spending for precollegiate education by more than 10 percent. The largest increases were in New Hampshire (44.9 percent), Nevada (25 percent), Maine (21.4 percent), and South Dakota (20.6 percent).

Growth in spending for K-12 education exceeded the growth in general-fund appropriations in 27 states, while spending for postsecondary education grew faster in 30 states.

Two states--Nebraska and Alaska--reported decreased funding for K-12 education, while three states--Texas, Alaska and Iowa--spent less on higher education.--jrs

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