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Legislative Update

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The following are summaries of final action by legislatures on state education budgets and other education-related matters.

IDAHO

Governor: Phil Batt (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.41 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $689 million
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $664 million
Percent change K-12 budget: +3.76 percent

Highlights:

  • New budget includes a 2 percent raise for teachers and nonprofessional school employees and a 0.5 percent raise for administrators. It also includes $7 million for computer equipment, wiring schools, and providing professional development in technology.
  • New teachers and teachers who have been employed less than five years will be required to pass criminal-background checks under a new law.
  • Under another new law, school dropouts under 18 cannot get a driver's license.
  • House and Senate passed separate versions of charter school legislation but could not agree on a compromise version. It is the third year in a row that charter school proposals have failed to pass.

MINNESOTA

Governor: Arne Carlson (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $8.91 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $3.07 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $2.96 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +3.7 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers rejected a $15 million proposal by the governor to create a voucher system focused on low-income neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  • New education funding for fiscal 1997, added to the second year of a two-year state budget, is directed primarily toward technology and school construction.

TENNESSEE

Governor: Don Sundquist (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $13.9 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $2.15 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $2 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +7 percent

Highlights:

  • Increase for K-12 spending includes a 3 percent raise for teachers.
  • Legislature rejected a bill that would have allowed the suspension or firing of teachers who taught the theory of evolution as fact.
  • Lawmakers passed legislation calling for the one-year expulsion of a student who assaults another student or teacher, or who possess an illegal drug or firearm at school. Punishment can be determined on a case-by-case basis, however. Another provision requires school systems to set discipline and behavior guidelines.
  • A bill passed that would deny a driver's license to high school students who failed to make satisfactory academic progress, which is defined as passing at least three courses.
  • New legislation will allow retired teachers to work as substitutes without having to continue or renew their certification.
  • Lawmakers created a commission to study character education.

WEST VIRGINIA

Governor: Gaston Caperton (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $2.3 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.29 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.26 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +2.38 percent

Highlights:

  • Budget includes a $500 salary increase for teachers, as well as an annual incremental raise, and $300 for nonteaching staff members.
  • Legislature directed $8.8 million from lottery proceeds toward increasing computer technology in middle and high schools.
  • Lawmakers dropped the proposed "rule of 80," favored by teachers, which would have allowed them to retire when their age plus years of service equaled 80.

WYOMING

Governor: Jim Geringer (R)

FY 1997-98 state budget: $992 million
FY 1997-98 K-12 budget: $118.8 million
FY 1995-96 K-12 budget: $127.7 million
Percent change K-12 budget: -6.99 percent

Highlights:

  • Decline in state education funding comes in response to increasing local school revenues. Overall school spending in the state will remain constant during the next biennium.
  • State supreme court ruling gave lawmakers until July 1997 to revamp Wyoming's school-finance system. Court asked lawmakers to justify the state's level of school spending, which led legislators to create a special panel to study school costs and spending levels. In the meantime, lawmakers are resistant to increasing the current level of funding.

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