States News Roundup
Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington has established an advisory council on education funding to develop an alternative to the state's school-finance system.
The Governor issued the executive order last month and named Orin Smith, the state budget director, to chair the panel. Other members include Frank Brouillet, state superintendent of schools, and several state legislators and members of the state board of education.
Under Washington's school-finance system, the state is responsible for providing 100 percent of the funds for basic K-12 education, according to Laird Harris, the Governor's chief policy aide and deputy director of the office of financial management.
Local districts are allowed to enact excess "enrichment" levies to raise additional funds for the public schools, Mr. Harris said. In their recent levies, however, school districts that enroll 80 percent of the state's schoolchildren have exceeded a state-imposed cap, raising more than an additional 10 percent above their state-aid allotment.
Because of the state's "severe" budget constraints, Mr. Harris explained, the legislature has enacted a law that suspends that limit for the next three years.
But he noted that it was understood when the bill was passed that there would be an effort to look at alternatives to the current system.
The advisory panel charged with that task has until Nov. 15, 1986, to report back to the Governor on how best to provide funding for schools. Mr. Harris predicted that the 1987 legislature will address the school-finance issue.
The Utah Board of Education has directed its staff to study the concept of mandating preschool classes for handicapped children.
"Early intervention has been shown by research to be beneficial to handicapped children and our state has no mandate for that service," said Mae Taylor, a specialist in the state education department's special-education division.
An estimated 2,500 3- and 4-year-old handicapped children would be served by the proposal, Ms. Taylor said. A legislative subcommittee that considered such a measure last month said it would cost approximately $6.7 million in its first year.
The staff, which was directed to study testimony submitted for and against the proposed mandate, will be asked on Oct. 11 to recommend a level of funding for the program and to study whether the funding should be included in the education department's budget or in the budget of the department of social services.
It is likely that the legislature will consider bills on the mandate in January. A bill submitted to lawmakers last year without a funding component died in committee, according to Ms. Taylor.
Utah does not mandate preschool programs or kindergarten for non-handicapped children. Handicapped children are required to begin school at age 5.
Wyoming's current method of funding vocational-education programs needs retooling, suggests a report from the state department of education.
The funding system, which provides about twice as much state money for students in vocational-education programs as for regular students, ''invites rearrangement of classes to earn extra funds," the researchers found.
Under the arrangement, school districts are required to spend their vocational-education money on students but not on programs per se. Consequently, said Audrey Cotherman, assistant state superintendent of public instruction, districts often spend some of the vocational funds they receive on other programs.
The report, mandated by the legislature in its 1984 session, recommends that lawmakers increase the amount of per-pupil spending on vocational education but that they revise the formula to ensure that the funds actually are spent on vocation-al programs. The current funding method is scheduled to be phased out next fiscal year.
The South Carolina Board of Education has established a new achievement certificate to be awarded to "academically superior" high-school graduates.
Only 1 to 2 percent of the state's graduating seniors are expected to qualify for the award certificates, which State Superintendent of Education Charlie G. Williams first proposed to the board several years ago.
"There has been substantial oppo-sition to a two-diploma system in South Carolina," as opposed to an awards certificate, according to Joel Taylor, director of the state education department's office of general education.
"It's the general feeling that the academic diploma that is awarded is reserved for those who can at least achieve at a minimum level," he said.
To be eligible for the new awards, students must earn at least a B in all courses and either a 650 on the verbal portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test or a 700 on the mathematics portion. Students' scores on the American College Testing Assessment must be at least 30 in English or 33 in math.
In addition, each student must complete 22 high-school credits, of which 15 must be in college-preparatory courses, 5 must be in electives, and 2 must be additional units in English, math, science, or social studies.
To spread the word about the prevention of child abduction, the Michigan attorney general has enlisted the aid of the state's 560 public-school and 100 private-school districts.
Through the "Protect Our Chil-dren" program, running through mid-October, schools across the state will distribute to approximately 1.2 million preschool-to-8th-grade students a brochure with tips on child safety for themselves and their parents.
Attorney General Frank J. Kelley's staff wrote the brochure with the assistance of several national child-protection groups, including Child Find and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The school distribution plan is the result of a cooperative agreement with the state education department, according to Daniel J. Loepp, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
Since the Sept. 16 announcement, there has been a "tremendous" public response to the program, Mr. Loepp said, including a request from officials in Ontario, Canada, to use the brochure.
"The focus is mainly to get parents and children to sit down and discuss the issue," Mr. Loepp said. He estimated the total cost of the program to the state at less than $20,000.
In addition to safety tips, the brochure also tells parents how to put together a "child-finder kit"--including a lock of a child's hair, fingerprints, dental records, and recent photographs--and advises what parents should do if their child is missing.