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Legislative Update

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

CONNECTICUT

Governor: John G. Rowland (R)
FY 1997 state budget: $9.05 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.496 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.492 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: + 0.3 percent

Highlights:

  • Figures reflect changes made last month to state's biennial budget, which lawmakers passed in April 1995.
  • Lawmakers rejected governor's proposal to reduce grants to local districts by $5 million for fiscal 1997. They also rejected his plan to merge departments of education and higher education, which he projected would save $1 million a year.
  • Legislature approved moving $11.3 million special education program for infants and toddlers to state's mental retardation department to reduce administrative burden on education department.
  • In final hours of its session, legislature approved measure that would allow up to 24 charter schools to operate in Connecticut beginning in 1997-98 school year. Gov. Rowland supports charter schools and is expected to sign bill.

IOWA

Governor: Terry E. Branstad (R)
FY 1997 state budget: $4.15 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.41 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.33 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +6.0 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers passed property-tax-relief package that will send local schools $85 million in additional state aid, which will replace an equal amount of revenue that had been generated locally.
  • Governor signed five-year, $150 million school-technology initiative. Funds will be allocated in annual installments of $30 million for teacher training and new equipment.
  • Legislators approved 3.5 percent increase in state school aid for fiscal 1998 and 1999. Unprecedented advance notice is intended to give school districts more time to plan their budgets.
  • Governor signed bill that expands tax credits for parents with children in private schools. Parents, regardless of income, can now count up to 10 percent of tuition and book expenses toward a tax credit of up to $100.
  • Legislature killed plan to add $1.2 million in supplemental aid for English-as-a-second-language instruction in K-12 schools, after opponents attached a provision that would have designated English the state's official language.

KANSAS

Governor: Bill Graves (R)
FY 1997 state budget: $7.8 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.99 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.98 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +0.5 percent

Highlights:

  • After debating proposals to abolish statewide property-tax levy that supports public schools, legislature passed compromise measure that will cut the 35-mill levy by 2 mills in current fiscal year and by another 2 mills next year.
  • As part of school-finance package, legislature voted to retain a "local option" provision that allows districts to raise additional revenue through local property taxes.
  • Governor signed into law a measure requiring, for first time, that students meet minimum requirements to enter state universities, making Kansas one of last states to implement such a requirement.

MISSISSIPPI

Governor: Kirk Fordice (R)
FY 1997 state budget: $2.797 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.09 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.08 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +0.8 percent

Highlights:

  • Fiscal 1997 budget does not include $175 million in projected revenues from a 1-cent sales tax that goes into an "educational enhancement fund." Fund pays for teacher health insurance, property-tax reduction, equity support for poor districts, textbooks, classroom supplies, school buses, and capital expenditures.
  • Legislature approved $3,000 annual pay raises to teachers certified by National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; state will also pay $2,000 fee for assessments that candidates for board certification must pass.
  • Legislature rejected governor's proposal to move state toward uniform system of appointed local superintendents and elected school boards. Currently, some school boards are appointed and some are elected; some boards include a mixture of elected and appointed members.

MISSOURI

Governor: Mel Carnahan (D)
FY 1997 state budget: $13.7 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.84 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.56 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +17.9 percent

Highlights:

  • Large increase in funding for school-aid foundation formula is fueled by higher-than-expected state revenues. This will allow state to fully fund its foundation formula for the first time, supplying each district with enough aid to meet minimum per-pupil expenditure established by legislature.
  • Legislature approved quarter-cent cut in state sales tax and $115 million refund of excess property-tax revenues scheduled to take place in late 1997 or early 1998. State court ruled that the property taxes were collected at a level above that approved by legislature.
  • Legislature approved additional immunization funding, with aim of ensuring that 90 percent of eligible children under age 2 are vaccinated. State currently immunizes 64 percent of those children, ranking Missouri 49th among the states.

NEW MEXICO

Governor: Gary E. Johnson (R)
FY 1997 state budget: $2.88 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.31 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.29 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +1.5 percent

Highlights:

  • Legislature approved 3 percent tuition hike at state's public colleges and universities; Mr. Johnson had proposed 8 percent increase.
  • Not included in $1.31 billion K-12 budget is one-time payment of $2 million to help two school districts with their school building and maintenance needs. One district, Pecos Independent, has had buildings nearly collapse due to poor construction; the other district, Rio Rancho, is a fast-growing district that needs to build many new schools in a short period.
  • Most of increase in K-12 spending would help cover projected enrollment growth and increased transportation costs.
  • Various bills that would have authorized the use of state monies or state-financed services in private or religious schools--such as a proposal for a tuition tax credit--failed during the legislative session.

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