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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.

ARIZONA

Governor: Fife Symington (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $4.78 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.87 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.77 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +5.6 percent

Highlights:

  • Total education spending for 1997 includes $50 million appropriated beyond the general-fund K-12 budget. That appropriation includes a $30 million grant-and-loan fund to help the poorest districts build or repair schools. Program responds to a 1994 state supreme court ruling that found the state's school-finance program to be unconstitutional because of vast disparities among districts in resources for construction, maintenance, and equipment. Legislature also dedicated $13.7 million to cover increased costs incurred as the school-funding formula begins using current enrollment figures, which will be higher because the state's school-age population is growing. Remaining $6.3 million is earmarked for special education.
  • Most of the increase in K-12 education aid will be absorbed by enrollment growth anticipated for fiscal 1997.
  • Charter school funding would increase by $50 million, to finance 46 existing charter schools and provide for up to 50 more in 1997. Officials underestimated the number of students who enrolled in charter schools in fiscal 1996.
  • Bill that would have limited K-3 classrooms to 17 students each died after clearing a House committee.

COLORADO

Governor: Roy Romer (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $4.2 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.6 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.58 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +1.3 percent

  • Highlights:
  • Legislature passed law designed to revamp state's juvenile-justice system, allowing children as young as 12 to be tried and sentenced as adults. Early in session, legislators killed part of the bill that would have eliminated mandatory school attendance.
  • Bills that would revamp the child-welfare portions of the Children's Code passed both houses but could not be reconciled before the end of the legislative session. Measures were sidetracked by a debate over parental rights in education and child welfare.
  • New law requires 3rd graders to pass a reading-comprehension test or take remedial reading.
  • Legislature approved a "deaf children's bill of rights," which allows hearing-impaired students to be exempted from mainstreaming into regular classrooms.

GEORGIA

Governor: Zell Miller (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $10.38 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $4.0 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $3.7 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +8.1 percent

Highlights:

  • Budget includes 6 percent pay raise for teachers.
  • Lawmakers modified plan championed by Gov. Miller and Linda Schrenko, the state schools superintendent, to cut the state education department staff by about a third. Independent agency will be created to run state's pre-kindergarten program.
  • Statewide ballot in November will carry a proposal to give districts authority to ask voters for a 1-cent sales tax to pay for school construction.
  • Legislature approved governor's proposal to require high school graduates who qualify for the state's college-scholarship program to maintain a B average in core courses.

KENTUCKY

Governor: Paul Patton (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $5.33 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $2.43 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $2.36 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +3.0 percent

Highlights:

  • Under state's two-year budget, general-fund spending is slated to rise to $5.56 billion in fiscal 1998, including $2.51 billion for K-12 education.
  • With increase in state's fiscal 1997 budget, lawmakers have urged local school administrators to approve 2.6 percent cost-of-living raises for teachers. Decision remains a local option, however.
  • State's 1996 budget includes $23 million in K-12 funds that will be returned to state treasury. That amount became a surplus in the state's school-finance program after state officials underestimated the rise in local property-tax appraisals. State's finance formula changes based on dips in local revenue.
  • Separate appropriation for state's school-facilities-construction commission will rise from $58.5 million this year to $60.6 million in fiscal 1997 and $64.2 million in 1998.

MAINE

Governor: Angus S. King Jr. (I)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.78 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $548 million
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $534 million
Percent change K-12 budget: +2.6 percent

Highlights:

  • Legislature made no significant changes this year to state's biennial budget for fiscal 1996 and 1997, which lawmakers passed in July 1995.
  • State wrapped up its legislative session with about $1.6 million in leftover state education aid, a surplus that resulted from fluctuations in interest rates and a number of local school-bond referendums that failed. Lawmakers may use a special legislative session this summer to divide surplus among state's 284 districts.
  • Governor signed into law a far-reaching "learning-results" bill that calls for new state standards for what students should know and be able to do. Those standards and related assessments are to be fully implemented by the 2002-03 school year.
  • Funding for K-12 education was one of the few areas of state budget that expanded over biennium. Most other areas saw reductions.

VIRGINIA

Governor: George F. Allen (R)

FY 1997-98 state budget: $16.6 billion
FY 1997-98 K-12 budget: $5.88 billion
FY 1995-96 K-12 budget: $5.30 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +10.9 percent

Highlights:

  • Majority of the increase in K-12 spending--$410 million over two years--will go to health and pension funds for school employees and to cover projected increases in school enrollment.
  • Legislature also approved a $70 million raise for teachers over two years.
  • Lawmakers approved $100 million for initiative to provide additional computers and advanced technology in each of state's 1,800 public schools.
  • Budget also includes $50 million to reduce class sizes in programs serving low-income children.

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