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West Virginia Legislators Override Governor's Veto of Budget

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West Virginia lawmakers inched closer toward ending their 1987 session late last month by overriding Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr.'s veto of their fiscal 1988 state spending plan.

The legislature, however, remained deadlocked last week on the question of whether to consider three education-related bills before adjourning for the summer.

As anticipated, Governor Moore on May 26 rejected the legislature's proposed $1.46-billion state budget. He had vetoed a $1.56-billion spending plan earlier this session. (See Education Week, May 27, 1987.)

The House voted 68 to 29 on May 28 to override Mr. Moore's veto of the second budget bill, one vote more than the minimum amount necessary for such action. The vote in the Senate was 25 to 9, two votes more than needed.

The budget includes $754.5 million for state aid to schools next year, $10.7 million less than the current spending level.

David Ice, research coordinator for the House Education Committee, said a disagreement over three education bills is blocking the path to adjournment. The House, he said, is pressing for immediate action on the measures, but the Senate wants to defer consideration of the bills until next year--or until a special session, if one is called by the Governor.

John Price, a spokesman for Mr. Moore, said the budget continues to be the Governor's top concern.

According to Mr. Ice, the package of bills would:

  • Provide $30 million to increase teachers' salaries by a total of about 5 percent next year.

Teachers' pay this year averages $21,446, but salary rates vary considerably among districts, Mr. Ice noted. Districts with low pay scales would receive more than higher-paying districts in an effort to equalize the rates, he said.

  • Create a state board to oversee teacher certification. Teachers would represent a majority of the panel's members. Currently, the state education department, in consultation with the state board of regents for higher education, controls teacher licensing.
  • Restructure West Virginia's school-finance formula to control personnel growth. The existing formula does not take declining enrollments into account in determining districts' entitlements to state aid for salaries, Mr. Ice said.
  • The proposed change, which is opposed by the state's teachers' unions, would require districts to lay off a total of 212 teachers, principals, guidance counselors, curriculum specialists, and central-office staff members.
  • Create a state school-building authority. The agency would allocate construction funds to districts on a "needs basis'' from an account separate from the school-aid fund.
  • Require the state's 40,000 school employees to bear a greater share of their state-subsidized health-care costs. The change is expected to save the state about $30 million a year in health-insurance costs.
  • Establish a scholarship program designed to entice the top 10 percent of the state's high-school graduates to select teaching as their college major.

The legislature is expected to decide whether to act on the bills by the middle of the month.

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