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New York State School Aid Cut by $190 Million

The New York legislature has agreed to cut state aid to schools by $190 million as part of a sweeping package of measures designed to address a projected $1-billion shortfall in the current state budget.

The budget cuts closely resembled those proposed last month by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who had suggested trimming $200 million in education aid to cope with declining revenues.

The legislature slightly reduced per-pupil losses in aid and agreed, under pressure from several of the state's wealthier districts, to limit the possible state-aid cut for any district to 1.5 percent of its overall budget.

To offset the impact of the cuts, lawmakers also agreed to lift a requirement that New York City teachers participate in an extensive mentoring program. City officials said the change could save them as much as $10 million this year.

Instead of furloughing state employees for one week, as suggested by Governor Cuomo, the legislature adopted a provision requiring state employees to defer a week's pay in return for an extra week's pay at their prevailing salary when they retire.

Despite a grim revenue forecast, Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana has proposed several education initiatives.

Mr. Bayh last month set a goal of providing preschool and child care to all 4-year-olds by 1995, with the bulk of the funds to come from federal sources. At an estimated state cost of $11 million, the proposal would combine education, child-care, maternal-health, vaccination, latchkey, and parent-information programs.

He also called for aiding kindergarten and 1st-grade students' basic skills by giving schools grants for computers. The effort would cost the state $6 million annually and $6 million in local matching funds.

Mr. Bayh also proposed grants for "Discovery Schools" that would allow educators to individualize learning, use nonstandard methods, and enhance parental involvement.

As part of a broad effort to improve workforce preparation, the Governor also proposed merging state agencies charged with vocational education, employment and training, and workforce literacy.

A revenue forecast from the state budget agency last month said "rainy-day fund" revenues and spending cuts will cover a $485-million imbalance in revenues and expenditures this fiscal year, but projected a "real fiscal crisis" for the next biennium. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia has announced that state aid to local school districts will be cut by $101.4 million next year in an attempt to bring the state's $1.9-billion deficit under control.

Wealthy counties in Northern Virginia will lose more than poor and rural districts in the rest of the state, officials said. The budget reductions range from an average of about 12 percent in the northern part of the state to 2.5 percent elsewhere.

Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. of Maine has called for legislation to defer state payments to the teachers' pension fund.

The proposal quickly ran into strong opposition, however, from teachers, hundreds of whom demonstrated against it last month.

Under the Governor's proposal, the state would withhold about $73 million from the trust from December 1990 to June 1991. The money would be earmarked to maintain local aid to education and offset social-service cuts. The state would repay the fund, with interest, over eight years beginning in July 1993.

A recent study by an independent pension consultant ranks Maine's system as the second-most underfunded in the nation.

Three New Jersey education groups have filed suit to force the state education department to release aid figures promised under the state's finance-reform law.

Under the Quality Education Act, approved last summer, new aid figures were due Dec. 15. In a joint statement last month, however, Gov. James J. Florio and Commissioner of Education John Ellis said "it would be confusing to release state aid figures now when it appears that the Legislature may recommend certain modifications to the qea in the near future."

Leaders of the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials say they need the figures to draft their budgets, which under the act are due next week. But Mr. Ellis waived that deadline, telling districts they will have 30 days after receiving state aid figures to submit budgets.

The groups say they still need the figures to analyze any future changes in the law.

A Connecticut panel has recommended extensive voluntary efforts to increase public-school racial integration but rejected a call for future mandatory procedures should noncoercive steps fail.

Released in draft form in November, the report by the Governor's Commission on Quality and Integrated Education calls for a variety of steps, including state funding of two-way interdistrict student transfers. (See Education Week, Nov. 21, 1990.)

Before releasing its final report last month, however, the panel deleted from the preface a line later added to the draft version, which declared that if the group's recommendations were deemed inadequate in the future, "both voluntary and involuntary methods must then be considered."

Instead, the panel declared that if its plan is unsuccessful, "other approaches must then be considered."

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