News in Brief
The states' slow recovery from their longstanding budget woes is due largely to continued belt-tightening, rather than to a robust economy, a new fiscal survey suggests.
State budgets are expected to grow by only about 3 percent in the next fiscal year, according to the report by the National Governors' Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. As has been the trend in recent years, rising health-care costs will continue to consume the bulk of new spending.
The modest budget growth stands in stark contrast to the 8 percent average annual increase during the 1980's, officials noted.
The survey also found a growing hesitancy among state leaders to raise taxes in order to balance their ledgers. Less than $4 billion in new taxes has been recommended for fiscal 1994 budgets--a sharp drop from the $25 billion in new funds collected in fiscal 1991 and 1992.
States in the Plains, Rocky Mountain, and Southeast regions continue to show the most healthy economies, while California leads the states suffering from an uneven recovery.
The Illinois House has defeated a school-voucher bill that would have given parents a $1,000 credit toward any public or private school in the state.
House lawmakers last month defeated the plan on a 78-to-24 vote. It had narrowly passed the Senate.
Under the plan, which did not spell out acceptance policies, parents could have used the vouchers for any K-12 student but would have been responsible for transportation and any tuition beyond $1,000.
Opponents of the bill said it would drain scant state funds from the public schools.
The Colorado Senate has passed a bill to create 48 charter schools in the state to serve gifted students and those with disabilities.
The bill, passed on a 27-to-7 vote last month, would establish a five-year pilot program authorizing eight charter schools in each of the state's six Congressional districts. Parents, teachers, or community leaders would have to apply to local school boards to open one of the schools, but they could appeal to the state board of education if the local board rejected the plan.
Some portion of the state's per-pupil share of funding would follow students who enrolled in a charter school. An amendment approved on the Senate floor would set provisions for negotiating the amount to be provided to the charter schools.
Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia has vetoed legislation to delay a new state graduation exam.
The bill would have postponed the test by one year, until the spring of 1995, to give schools more time to prepare and the state another year to field-test the instrument.
In vetoing the bill last month, the Governor noted that the state already has provided for one year of field-testing. Additional field-testing "is not expected to yield any unexpected information,'' he said.
Students will be expected to take the new test in 11th grade and repeat it if they fail.
The new test was part of a comprehensive package of testing reforms passed by the legislature in 1991.
The Oklahoma legislature has passed a measure giving state voters a chance to decide whether they want to continue to have an annual say in local property-tax rates.
The bill approved last month will put a state question turning millage assessment authority over to the local school board on the ballot during the next school election, on Feb. 8, 1994, said Debbie Terlip, the assistant director of the House research division.
Currently, Oklahoma voters go to the polls annually on school matters, including any school board elections. They are asked to approve 20 mills of the 44 mills of property tax devoted to schools. The other 24 mills are assessed without voter approval.
The millage questions almost always pass, on a second try if not on
the first, since the elections tend to draw voters who are interested
in school matters, Ms. Terlip said.