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Minn. Governor Advocates 'One Stop' Agency for Children

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Many of Minnesota's education and social services should be combined into a single "one-stop shopping'' agency that would serve children from the time they are born until they become young adults, Gov. Arne Carlson has proposed.

"Over the years, with the very best of intentions, we have created a tangled, bureaucratic web of children's programs,'' Mr. Carlson said in his State of the State Address this month. "By reinventing the way we serve young children, we will begin to make some sense out of a fragmented, disjointed system.''

The Governor said the state currently has more than 250 children's programs, administered through 33 agencies, boards, and commissions at a cost of $4.5 billion a year.

Under his proposal, many of those programs would be combined into a single agency, the Minnesota Department of Children and Education Services. It would replace the state education department and the higher-education coordinating board and take on responsibility for preschool, family-health, and child-care programs now run by other agencies.

Mr. Carlson said he would also charge the new department with overseeing career-training programs for young people between the ages of 16 and 20.

One of the new agency's first tasks, the Governor proposed, would be to create educational standards and assessments for Minnesota schoolchildren. He called in particular for a benchmark assessment of basic academic skills to be taken in about the 10th grade.

"Once these standards are in place, the state is going to step back and simply send the money and resources educators need to help students achieve this level of competency,'' he said. "No more micro-management.''

Mr. Carlson's reorganization plan, which requires legislative approval, was the boldest idea in a speech that focused almost entirely on children.

Other Initiatives

Among other initiatives, Mr. Carlson proposed:

  • Setting aside $10 million in state grants to help local communities consolidate services for children and their families.
  • Providing $5 million to create a system of youth apprenticeships.
  • Establishing education and training accounts to help families save for college or vocational preparation after high school. Mr. Carlson said the state would contribute $25 million to those accounts for students from low-income families and would challenge philanthropies, employers, and parents to contribute as well.
  • Limiting to 20 hours a week the amount of time high school students can work in non-apprenticeship jobs.

Mr. Carlson's proposals, which would cost an estimated $40 million, come at a time when the state is facing a budget deficit of more than $700 million. The looming shortfall prompted the Governor last year to require all state agencies to cut their budgets by about 5 percent.

The Governor made no mention of the shortfall in this speech, however. He is expected to present his biennial budget proposal this week.

MISSOURI

Carnahan Urges 'Fix' For School-Aid Formula

Speaking just two days before a state judge would strike down Missouri's school-finance system, Gov. Mel Carnahan challenged the legislature to undertake a thorough revision of the state's school-aid formula as a critical precursor to implementing "the most comprehensive school-reform plan ever offered'' in the state.

In his first State of the State Address, the newly elected Governor this month told legislators that "we must develop a fair way to allocate the state's funds to Missouri schools'' in order to establish a solid financial foundation for his reform package.

The "first step to adopting an education-reform plan is to fix the foundation formula,'' Mr. Carnahan said, challenging lawmakers "to get this job done now, because if the people in these chambers don't fix the formula, a court will.''

Shortly after the Mr. Carnahan's speech, the state's system of school finance was declared unconstitutional by Circuit Judge Byron L. Kinder. (See story, page 1.)

Mr. Carnahan also noted, however, that reforming the state's education system "can't wait until after we pass a fair foundation formula.''

He proposed that all the revenue generated by the state lottery be devoted to precollegiate education, as was originally proposed.

"The voters demanded it and it's the right thing to do,'' he added.

In addition, Mr. Carnahan proposed to dedicate new funds to programs for children at risk of failing in school, to hire guidance counselors specifically for at-risk children, and to increase funding for dropout-prevention programs.

He also called for increasing state spending on educational research and for establishing a career-ladder program for teachers.--P.W.

COLORADO

Romer Couples Reforms, School-Funding Solution

While Colorado's thorny school-funding problems should be a legislative priority early in the 1993 session, lawmakers also should not neglect action on a number of education-reform initiatives, Gov. Roy Romer has urged.

"Each year, no issue is more difficult for all of us than the funding and reform of our public schools,'' the Governor said in his State of the State Address this month.

The state faces an estimated funding shortfall for K-12 education of $328 million for fiscal 1994, Governor Romer said.

The legislature's reliance on one-time revenues to hold off repeated school-funding crises in recent years "has caught up with us,'' he added.

Mr. Romer's proposed budget suggests about $100 million in revenues to cover a portion of next year's projected deficit. Although his speech and a written message to lawmakers did not offer a clear proposal for filling the rest of that gap, he proposed giving local communities greater flexibility to raise taxes by public referendum.

Instead of the current provision that limits localities' tax increases to 10 percent of their state-formula funding, Mr. Romer said, "local voters should have broad authority to raise revenues for their schools.''

The Governor said a number of other changes in the state's school-finance act are needed to give communities greater flexibility and more tax options.

But Governor Romer also declared that despite the school-funding problem, the state must move forward with its education-reform agenda.

He proposed developing a state standards-and-assessment program and authorizing independent but publicly funded charter schools.

Charter schools would give teachers and others the opportunity to open public schools free of "excessive regulation,'' Mr. Romer said.

"Done correctly, I believe the charter-school option will ignite debate within districts and statewide about new, effective ways of educating different kinds of students,'' he said.

The Governor also proposed designing "'super charter networks'' to provide an "umbrella of technical expertise and economies of scale'' to such schools.

In addition, Mr. Romer said he is working on a bill to create a standards-based education system in the state based on recommendations from a task force.

"Standards can serve as the unifying anchor for our other efforts to improve schools,'' he said in a written message to legislators.

MARYLAND

Schaefer Stirs Controversy Over Vouchers, Norplant

Gov. William Donald Schaefer of Maryland has unveiled a school-choice plan under which 200 students would receive vouchers to supplement the cost of tuition at private and parochial schools.

The initiative would provide vouchers worth about $2,900 each to participating students, according to the Governor, and scholarships would be available to low-income students who could not afford tuition costs even with a voucher.

"Are we giving our children the best educational opportunities? Maybe we need to see how our public schools perform against private and parochial schools,'' the Governor said in his State of the State Address this month.

Each stipend would be half the cost of the state's current per-pupil expenditure, the Governor said.

Mr. Schaefer did not explain how students would be chosen for the program, which is expected to face strong opposition in the legislature.

In another controversial proposal, the Governor called for a plan to require women on welfare who have "a certain number of illegitimate children'' to use Norplant, a surgically implanted contraceptive.

"There's a real reluctance to push for a really extreme steps in birth control because of a concern about being called racist or too radical,'' Mr. Schaefer said.

But he argued that in a predominantly black high school in Baltimore, the first school in the country to distribute the five-year contraceptive, students "seemed to be glad'' to have access to Norplant. (See Education Week, Dec. 16, 1992.)

"We haven't done enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies,'' the Governor contended.

Mr. Schaefer also vowed that he would "step up child-support collections'' by revoking driver's licenses for parents owing child support, requiring community service of parents who could not pay, and reporting child-support debts to credit agencies.--J.P.

WYOMING

Sullivan Seeks Tax Hikes To Counter School Deficit

Gov. Mike Sullivan of Wyoming has proposed sweeping tax increases to combat an estimated $95 million shortfall in the state's 1993-94 school budget.

In his State of the State Address this month, Mr. Sullivan chastised the legislature for its repeated dependence on one-time finding for the school-foundation fund, which the state's 49 school districts use for operating costs. For the past several years, he noted, water, highway, and mineral accounts have been raided to offset the education-fund shortfall.

To remedy this "structural imbalance'' the Governor proposed an 8 cent gas-tax increase, with half the estimated $37.6 million in annual revenue to go to the education-foundation fund. Mr. Sullivan also recommended retaining a capital-facilities tax, which promotes environmental protection in industry, using the $19 million in annual proceeds to replenish the school fund.

The Governor also called for a 1 cent increase in the sales and use tax, which he said would bring some $66 million a year into the state's general fund.

In addition, the Governor requested $35 million for the education-foundation fund for capital construction and $10 million to reseed the Education Trust Fund, which was created two years ago to encourage innovative teaching programs. Since that time, however, legislators have siphoned money from the trust fund to offset the operating deficit.

But Mr. Sullivan also emphasized that the proposed revenue increases were not meant to take the pressure off the need for decreasing government spending and growth. Along these lines, he urged local school districts to "maximize cost effectiveness'' and pledged to create a series of legislative-executive work groups to review all major state programs.--S.K.G.

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