Abuzz over school aid in the Beehive State
Just as a feud over state aid to schools has entered an uneasy truce in California, another has erupted in Utah.
At a recent public hearing in Salt Lake City, Gov. Norman Bangerter and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Moss traded barbs over the state board of education's request for an additional $80 million in education spending for the upcoming fiscal year.
Calling the request "unrealistic," Governor Bangerter said he would propose an increase of between $15 million and $18 million. "You're going to have to find a way" to cut the board's request, he told the superintendent during the Nov. 4 hearing. "That's just the facts of life."
"Tell that to the school children who are trying to share a textbook with six people," countered Mr. Moss.
After the hearing, the Governor's aides distributed documents to those in attendance indicating how aid to other state agencies would have to be reduced to accommodate the state school board's request.
That move prompted the superintendent to send letters to all state department heads denying that he and the board had ever suggested cutting into their slices of the budget pie.
"Had I been aware of the distribution of that information, I would have refuted it immediately and I regret that I was not given the opportunity to do so," he wrote.
In subsequent interviews with the local media, Mr. Moss suggested that the Governor was using the education-spending dispute as a ploy to help him win re-election next year.
"I think the schoolchildren in this state deserve better than they got in the hearing," the school chief said. "Our job is to think about the next generation--not the next election. Obviously, everything the Governor does at this point has a political agenda behind it."
Meanwhile, a state representative has announced that he will introduce a proposed constitutional amendment next year that would abolish the state board and provide for gubernatorial appointment of the state superintendent's post. Utah voters now elect the board's members, who in turn appoint the superintendent.
Referring to the vituperative debate between the Governor and superintendent, Representative Rob W. Bishop said of his proposed bill, "You wouldn't see the the adversial relationship of last week."
"Many superintendents I've talked to want to see control vested in local boards and the legislature," Mr. Bishop added.