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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.

NORTH CAROLINA

Governor: James B. Hunt Jr. (D)

FY 1997 state budget: $10.60 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $4.25 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $3.97 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +7.1 percent

Highlights:

  • State lawmakers increased teacher salaries by 5.5 percent in budget for fiscal 1997, the second year of biennial budget adopted last year. Other school staff are slated for 4.5 percent increase.
  • Fiscal 1997 budget continues three-year effort to lower class sizes. This year, $15 million is targeted for reducing 2nd-grade classes to 23 students per teacher. Earlier years targeted kindergarten and 1st grade.
  • Lawmakers appropriated $14 million for at-risk-student services, a category that includes alternative schools and hiring uniformed safety officer for each North Carolina high school.

OKLAHOMA

Governor: Frank Keating (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $4.1 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $1.53 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.41 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +8.5 percent

Highlights:

  • Governor vetoed education-reform measure that would have guaranteed 8 percent salary increase for teachers who are paid state's minimum allowable wage for teachers. It also would have set up $6 million professional-development program and $1 million program for at-risk 4-year-olds.
  • Legislature gave $42.8 million infusion to districts with growing enrollments.
  • Governor's proposal to give $10.9 million in incentive pay to teachers in the top 20 percent of schools died in legislature.

PENNSYLVANIA

Governor: Tom Ridge (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $16.35 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $5.61 billion
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $5.58 billion
Percent change K-12 budget: +0.5 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers modified state law on teacher sabbatical leaves to limit absences to study or health reasons. Disallowing leave for travel and other purposes will save school districts $45 million annually, officials estimate.
  • Legislature approved $33 million in new funding for technology upgrades at schools and libraries. Eventually, state intends to link K-12 schools with libraries and colleges, which also got new technology funding under fiscal 1997 budget.

RHODE ISLAND

Governor: Lincoln Almond (R)

FY 1997 state budget: $1.7 billion
FY 1997 K-12 budget: $488 million
FY 1996 K-12 budget: $476.8 million
Percent change K-12 budget: +2.3 percent

Highlights:

  • Increase of $1 million in state's share of teacher-retirement costs represents largest part of budget increase.
  • Legislature also approved $400 million appropriation for Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical School, a new vocational school in Providence that started classes this fall.
  • Along with budget, lawmakers passed measure calling for new formula to be used to dispense state aid to districts. Rhode Island's current system dispenses funds based on districts' past spending; new formula would be based more on local needs.

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