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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.

ALABAMA

Governor: Fob James Jr. (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $9.1 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $2.30 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $2.25 billion Percent change K-12 budget +2.2 percent

Highlights:

  • Total state budget figure includes all federal, state, and local funds that are deposited in state treasury. State officials do not break funds down any further.

* Legislature passed a 4 percent pay raise for K-12 teachers.

* Education budget contains $28 million to finance school districts' plans to provide at-risk students with such services as before- and after-school programs, alternative programs, and parent education. Statewide funding for teacher training doubles to $5.2 million.

* Legislature also passed several bills concerning juvenile justice. One allows school principals to petition juvenile courts to inspect and copy social, medical, and psychiatric or psychological records of adjudicated delinquent children.

ALASKA

Governor: Tony Knowles (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $2.42 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $656.4 million FY 1996 K-12 budget: $660.3 million Percent change K-12 budget -0.6 percent

Highlights:

* Officials estimate state may face a $400 million shortfall for fiscal 1997. That forecast anticipates lower oil revenues, which drive much of state's economy.

* Lawmakers voted to continue $2.5 million in state transportation aid for schools, an item Mr. Knowles had proposed cutting.

* Schools would receive $7 million in construction money above the $656.4 million allocated for basic school aid.

* Governor signed a teacher-tenure-reform bill; measure requires teachers to spend three years in the classroom before acquiring tenure, up from current two years. Law will subject teachers and administrators to regular reviews based on performance standards agreed upon by state and local officials. Districts have until next July 1 to set standards

DELAWARE

Governor: Thomas R. Carper (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.7 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $555 million FY 1996 K-12 budget: $530 million Percent change K-12 budget +4.7 percent

Highlights:

* Budget increases teacher salaries and pensions for school employees by 2 percent, or $11 million.

* Legislature approved $2.6 million program to assist school districts in offering remedial services to underachieving students.

* Budget includes $1.2 million for districts to maintain existing alternative schools while expanding crisis-prevention and discipline programs.

* Budget funnels $650,000 into a professional-development fund for teachers and $400,000 into early-childhood programs.

FLORIDA

Governor: Lawton Chiles (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $15.6 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $6.1 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $5.6 billion Percent change K-12 budget +8.9 percent

Highlights:

* In addition to $6 billion in spending allotted from state general fund in 1996-97, public schools anticipate $575.3 million from lottery revenues. That figure is down slightly from $580.2 million last year.

* Combined state and local spending on K-12 education will rise by $631 million, or 6.4 percent. However, projected statewide enrollment increase of 61,833 students, to 2.37 million, leaves districts with an actual 3.6 percent increase in funding.

* Adding Florida to ranks of states allowing charter schools, a new law will allow nearly 500 such schools statewide.

* Gov. Chiles vetoed measure allowing voluntary, student-led prayer at some school functions. Lawmakers had included the prayer provision in a larger bill that included tougher graduation requirements.

LOUISIANA

Governor: Mike Foster (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $5.26 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.98 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.87 billion Percent change K-12 budget +5.9 percent

Highlights:

* Final K-12 budget includes $63 million to raise teacher salaries statewide. For first time, teacher pay raises will be included in state's basic school-aid formula. Raises will range from $750 to $1,200 depending on a school district's relative wealth.

* State's controversial teacher-evaluation program would survive at least another year with $2.8 million, down from current $5.4 million. State funds will cover testing of beginning teachers only. Education department will review the program and recommend revisions or its abolition.

* Legislature set aside $650,000 to develop the state's school-accountability initiative. A state panel has recommended providing rewards for high-performing schools and leveling sanctions at schools that fail to improve after state intervention.

MASSACHUSETTS

Governor: William F. Weld (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $17.5 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $2.58 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $2.31 billion Percent change K-12 budget +11.7 percent

Highlights:

* Budget allocates about $200 million to continue state's seven-year plan for education reform. Enacted in 1993, it also includes equity provisions to gradually increase the amount of state aid that goes to less wealthy districts.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Governor: Stephen Merrill (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.64 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $91.7 million FY 1996 K-12 budget: $85.5 million Percent change K-12 budget +7.3 percent

Highlights:

* After years of debate, legislature passed bill providing state funding for kindergarten. Under the $5 million measure, state will provide $500 per kindergarten-age child to districts that now operate kindergartens or plan to open them. Law does not, however, require districts to offer kindergarten.

* Gov. Merrill vetoed a bill that would have accepted $9 million in federal funding under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, President Clinton's school-improvement initiative. State board of education agreed to allow communities to apply directly to Washington for the grants.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Governor: David M. Beasley (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.36 billion FY 1997 K-12 budget: $403 million FY 1996 K-12 budget: $382 million Percent change K-12 budget: +5.5 percent

Highlights:

* Budget increases state's base per-pupil funding by $47 million.

* Lawmakers approved $14.1 million to pay for all-day kindergarten for state's poorest 5-year-olds.

* Gov. Beasley signed a $70 million facilities bill. First-year funding must be used to pay outstanding bond debts or buy portable classrooms.

* Lawmakers approved $20 million for state's technology plan, intended to help schools pay for Internet connections and satellite dishes.

* Charter school law provides for unspecified number of nonreligious, nonprofit charter schools accountable to local school boards.

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