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Blanchard Vows Veto If Preschool Bill Fails

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Some governors have highlighted precollegiate education in their 1988 State of the State addresses. Following are reports from several states.

Gov. James J. Blanchard called on Michigan lawmakers last week to approve a far-ranging package of school-reform initiatives this year before taking up the more politically sensitive issue of restructuring the school-finance system.

Heading the Governor's list of reforms, which he outlined in a Jan. 20 address, is a new program to provide preschool services to "at risk" 4-year-olds.

"Tonight I am drawing the line," Mr. Blanchard told the lawmakers. "I will veto any education appropriations bill that does not contain'' funding for the preschool initiative. The Governor suggested spending $40 million for the effort in fiscal 1989, $60 million in 1990, and $80- million in 1991.

The Governor's reform proposals also include:

$170 million in "quality assurance" funds. Districts would receive between $25 and $110 per student for adopting a core curriculum for all grades that sets minimum standards for promotion and graduation; lowering the pupil-teacher ratio in kindergarten through 3rd grade to 20 to 1; giving parents the option of choosing a public school for their children from among all such schools in their district; and adopting school-based improvement plans prepared by administrators, teachers, parents, and community business leaders.

$500 million in incentive funds for districts that raise their students' scores on the state's student-assessment tests.

$15 million in incentive funds to encourage districts to keep potential dropouts in school.

$6 million for teacher inservice programs developed at the school level within broad guidelines set by the state board of education.

Requiring prospective teachers to pass a competency test in order to obtain state certification.

Funding for the reforms would be provided separately from general state aid to districts.

"Once this excellence challenge is adopted, we will work with the legislature to enact separate plans to bring greater equity to school districts' funding and to tackle the critical challenge of reducing the property-tax burden in Michigan," Mr. Blanchard said in his address.

Last year, citizens' commissions appointed by the Senate and the state board issued separate school-finance reports calling for major reductions in local property-tax rates combined with an increase in the sales tax. Prior to last week's address, the Governor had not clearly indicated whether he would be willing to tackle the finance issue during this legislative session.

Senator Dan L. DeGrow, chairman of the Senate K-12 education subcommittee and vice chairman of the chamber's appropriations committee, said last week he doubted that the legislature would address the reform and finance issues separately, as the Governor requested. He noted that lawmakers will be under pressure to approve a proposed constitutional amendment to change the finance system by late June in order to put the issue before voters in November.

The Governor is scheduled to submit his fiscal 1989 budget request to lawmakers this week.--tm

Kean Requests Studies On 'Choice,' Values

Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey has told lawmakers he wants the state "to explore the idea" of letting parents choose the public schools their children attend.

"We are allowed to choose virtually every service and product we use," he said in his annual message to the legislature, "yet we have little choice in the most important decision of all--deciding where to send our children to school."

"Why shouldn't the mother in Camden or Newark decide where to send her child to school?" he asked.

He made it clear he was not proposing that parents be allowed to use public money to send their children to private schools, an option advanced by the Reagan Administration.

"I am not talking about tuition tax credits," he said. "I am talking about efforts to allow choice within the public-school system itself."

The Governor said he would ask Saul Cooperman, the commissioner of education, to study whether public-school choice is feasible and to report his findings within a year.

He also said he had directed Mr. Cooperman to establish a panel of leaders from business, education, government, and religious groups to define what he called "a common core of enduring values that all New Jerseyans believe should be promoted."

Once this task is completed, the Governor said, the department of education will "take these values and use them to once again teach character in our schools."

"Too many schools say morality is no longer their business," he said. "I believe it is long past time we put a little moral fiber in our children's educational diet."

In other education proposals, the Governor called for greater accountability and earlier intervention. He would toughen the state's high-school proficiency examination by testing students at the 11th-grade level, rather than at the 9th-grade level; create a report card for schools to enable parents and taxpayers "to find out what schools are giving them for their money"; and expand the number of preschool programs in the state's urban areas.

"If we invest early," he said of this last proposal, "we can save later in the costs of remedial education, welfare, and even prisons."

Mr. Kean is scheduled to present a separate message on his proposed budget early next month.--br

Moore Seeks Special Session on Education

Aiming some harsh criticism at his political opponents, Gov. Arch Moore of West Virginia has promised to call a special legislative session in April to consider his proposals for educational improvement.

In his Jan. 13 address to the legislature, Mr. Moore blasted political leaders for failing to support his efforts last year to make 1987 the "Year of Education" in his economically troubled state.

"I am bitterly disappointed with my loss, ... a battle I hasten to say I fought all alone, with no help from any segment of the community of West Virginia that always gives lip service to education and its needs," Mr. Moore said.

The Governor said he would unveil "a complete educational program" after the legislature has time to study a number of recent reports on school improvement, and following a March election on proposed changes in the school-finance system.

In last year's session, the legislature approved a precollegiate-education budget of $755 million, considerably below the total requested by the Governor, and rejected proposed pay increases for teachers.

In making those cuts, legislators cited West Virginia's shaky fiscal condition. In December, a lack of cash in the state treasury forced officials to defer several aid payments to school districts.

But in last week's address, Mr. Moore downplayed the fiscal problems, saying they had been blown out of proportion by "reckless discussion and news reports ... played to national and worldwide audiences."

He promised to develop revenue proposals to help pay for his new education reforms, which are expected to closely resemble his 1987 recommendations. Pending the submission of those measures, the Governor has presented legislators with a provisional budget that calls for a freeze in overall state spending, and only a4slight increase in aid to schools.

Under the proposed budget, total spending from general revenues would be set at just under $1.5 billion. Elementary and secondary education would receive slightly less than $772 million, about $17 million--or 2 percent--above last year's level.

Legislative leaders reacted coolly to Mr. Moore's proposal for a special session. With precollegiate-education spending accounting for nearly half of the state's budget, the subjectis too critical to be dealt with at a later date, several said.--wm

N.M. Governor Wants To Block-Grant Aid

In an effort to stretch limited education funds, Gov. Garrey E. Carruthers of New Mexico has become the second Western governor this month to propose block-granting state aid to schools.

"Local discretion is the key phrase in our public-school budget for 1988," the Republican Governor said. He made his proposal during a Jan. 19 address that he dedicated to "the children."

Under Mr. Carruthers' plan, all state assistance to local schools--8with the exception of funds designated for transportation and library services--would be distributed in lump sums.

"Then, it will be up to the local district to find ways to better manage all their state aid," said Marlis Mann, an education aide to the Governor.

A similar plan to move away from the traditional process of earmarking state funds for specific purposes was advanced a week earlier by Gov. Norman H. Bangerter of Utah. His proposal called for block-granting state aid on a pilot basis in several school districts.

"We're both states with tight resources," Ms. Mann noted.

In New Mexico, for example, the Governor's proposed $27.9-million increase in education spending would cover the costs of existing programs and a series of reforms approved in 1986. It would not, however, pay for teacher salary increases, critics point out.

"If individual schools want to take some of that money and spend it on teacher salaries," Ms. Mann said, "that's up to them."

Mr. Carruthers also proposed repealing education-reform laws that eliminated noninstructional duties for teachers, such as supervising lunch periods or recesses. He said the change would add $1.2 million in discretionary aid for schools.

Other education-related proposals in the Governor's address include: spending $6.1 million to reduce the teacher-pupil ratio in 2nd-grade classrooms; a $2.7-million appropriation to fund similar class-size reductions in English classes in grades 7 through 12; and a $450,000 grant to expand bilingual programs.

The Governor also called for the creation of a task force to study ways to revamp New Mexico's school-funding formula.--dv

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