News in Brief
Legislative leaders in Washington State last week formally introduced a comprehensive education-reform plan estimated to cost $1 billion over the next decade.
The plan was released last month by the Council on Education Reform and Funding, a panel established by outgoing Gov. Booth Gardner.
The plan calls for a wide range of reforms, including abolition of "seat time'' requirements, reduction of state regulation of schools, and more training and preparation time for teachers.
To pay for the reforms, the council proposed increases in sales and business taxes.
In the first legislative hearing on the package, however, witnesses who testified before the Senate Education Committee last week sharply criticized the cost of the package.
Critics questioned the need for higher taxes and said the plan would consume funding that should be earmarked for new school materials and better pay for teachers.
Sen. Dwight Pelz of Seattle, for example, said that while he supports many of the reforms, he was pessimistic about the state's ability to finance them.
Gov. Mike Lowry, who took office this month, last week said he supports full implementation of the plan.
Gov. Cecil D. Andrus of Idaho has proposed a sweeping tax-reform package that would help support a $52 million increase in state aid to public schools.
Governor Andrus in his budget message this month recommended $87.8 million in tax increases, to be raised through the elimination of exemptions from the 5 percent sales tax for a number of goods and services, such as the purchase of logging rigs and irrigation equipment, and delivery, installation, and repair services.
The majority of these funds, combined with revenues generated by other reforms in the state's tax structure, Mr. Andrus proposed, would be used to support increased aid to schools as well as to pay for a tax-relief program that could reduce property taxes by 6 percent to 8 percent.
Property-tax rates have been a major concern in Idaho, where education and other groups last fall helped beat back a proposed tax-limitation constitutional amendment.
Mr. Andrus said the increases in education aid include $18 million to raise teacher salaries and retirement benefits and $13 million to place guidance counselors in every elementary school and enable each of the state's 113 school districts to operate a gifted-and-talented program.
The Governor's budget proposal also includes $5 million to fund pilot restructuring projects.