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

ARKANSAS

Governor: Jim Guy Tucker (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $2.7 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.4 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.33 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +5.3 percent

Highlights:

  • Fiscal 1997 funding is second year of two-year budget approved by legislature last year. State board of education may apply surplus funds from fiscal 1996 to K-12 education in 1997--a decision it will make when fiscal 1996 ends this month.
  • Beginning in fiscal 1997, Arkansas introduces new funding formula for state aid to local districts. Lawmakers approved formula change last year, after state supreme court ruled current formula unconstitutional.
  • New funding system includes about $21.6 million allocated to nudge per-student spending in poorest districts closer to that of wealthier districts. Another $20 million has been allocated to help poor districts manage their debts.
  • Funding for several K-12 categorial programs will also be channeled through new equalization formula. These include about $30 million allocated for training and grants for at-risk youths, about $124 million in teacher-retirement funds, and more than $50 million in transportation aid.

ILLINOIS

Governor: Jim Edgar (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $17.2 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $4.17 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $3.88 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +7.5 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers did not seriously consider Gov. Edgar's plan to shift $1.5 billion in local property taxes to state-level taxes, an effort to equalize school funding. Governor's suggested $400 million increase in K-12 spending, however, did trigger legislative debate that provided substantial new funding for schools.
  • Lawmakers agreed on $291 million package of new spending; biggest part of new money is targeted for flat grants to school districts based on enrollment.
  • Legislature approved spending $15 million for new alternative schools and $15 million for expanded technology programs.

MONTANA

Governor: Marc Racicot (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $988 million
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $471 million
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $466 million
Percent change K-12 budget: +1.1 percent

Highlights:

  • Legislature, which convenes every two years, did not meet this year. Fiscal 1997 budget, passed last year as part of state's biennial spending package, provides new funding to cover anticipated growth in enrollment.
  • State schools Superintendent Nancy Keenan, who faces re-election this fall, would like to make school funding a top priority in 1997 legislative session. She would seek $38.9 million--a 4.5 percent increase in state per-pupil funding over next two years--to replace cuts that date to 1993.
  • State officials plan to request $1.9 million next year for Improving Montana Schools, a broad initiative covering everything from school accountability to educational technology to vocational education.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Governor: William J. Janklow (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $644 million
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $220 million
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $191 million
Percent change K-12 budget: +15.3 percent

Highlights:

  • New funding formula for K-12 education will be launched in fiscal 1997, increasing state's share of overall school funding.
  • Governor proposed no new education programs for fiscal 1997.

WASHINGTON STATE

Governor: Mike Lowry (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $8.95 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $4.24 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $4.08 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +4 percent

Highlights:

  • Beyond general-fund K-12 budget, state plans to spend $42 million in fiscal 1997 on expanding its telecommunications system to help schools move ahead in such areas as Internet access and interactive television. Initiative covers elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities.
  • Fiscal 1997 education budget, part of two-year spending plan adopted last year, includes $4 million to cover cost of expanding school-employee background checks. New law requires fingerprinting and police background checks of all staff members with unsupervised access to children; previously, employees hired before 1982 were exempt.

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