Published Online: January 15, 1997

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Wilson Seeks Smaller Classes, More Money for Technology

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Gov. Pete Wilson last week asked California legislators to spend more money to reduce class sizes, build new schools, and expand technology in his State of the State Address, his seventh as the state's top elected official.

"We want every high school graduate to be fluent in PC--that's personal computer, not political correctness," he said in the Jan. 7 speech.

Mr. Wilson, a Republican, also touched on more controversial initiatives, calling for a voucher program, more charter schools, and new single-sex academies.

But the governor faces a tougher sell pushing his proposals through this year's legislature, which fell into Democratic control after the elections last fall.

He wants more teachers retrained in phonics and quick passage of reading and language standards for the elementary grades. "We can and should have assessments ready to test students on these skills by next summer," he said.

His four-year, $500 million school technology plan calls for $50 million in first-year state aid. The total would reach $1 billion by 2000 if local governments matched state spending.

State school officials say that $7 billion is needed to meet school technology needs in that time.

Mr. Wilson also wants to spend $448 million for hiring and other related costs to cover a second year of his popular K-3 class-size-reduction initiative.

He endorsed a $2 billion school construction bond that would go on the ballot in 1998 to help relieve the crunch in classroom space and building repairs.

Drawing on another 1996 theme, he wants to raise the number of same-sex academies that serve poor children. Twenty such academies were started last year with $5 million.

And Mr. Wilson hopes to expand charter schools beyond the state's current total of 100. He also used the address to once again make a pitch for school vouchers.

IDAHO

Batt Urges Modification of Teacher Tenure Law

Gov. Phil Batt took on teacher tenure in his State of the State Address last week, saying that overhauling or eliminating job protections for Idaho teachers could help schools.

"Competition, which works in nearly every other job experience, may enhance our education efforts," he said.

The Republican governor applauded local control of schools, promised prudent budgeting, and encouraged local school districts to follow the state education department's lead in reducing regulations and paperwork.

"School districts should be expected to respond, where possible, by reducing administration and putting education dollars to work in the classrooms," Mr. Batt said in his Jan. 6 speech. He also proposed stronger efforts to combat high school dropouts.

--CHERYL GAMBLE

NEW YORK

Pataki Calls for Cut in Property-Tax Rates

New York Gov. George E. Pataki used his State of the State Address last week to highlight several school-related accomplishments and lay out both fiscal and philosophical goals that will send the state "roaring into the next century."

In the Jan. 8 speech in Albany, the Republican, who is angling toward a 1998 re-election campaign, vowed to cut property taxes and increase state education spending.

"I propose this year we increase our financial support to our schools by more than a quarter-billion dollars," he said.

The governor touted a multiyear proposal to lower property taxes, possibly to relieve some of the burden placed on localities from previous years' cuts in state spending. Property taxes, he said, are "too much and offer too little in return."

"When our school property-tax plan is fully implemented, it's going to put hundreds of millions of dollars ... back in the pockets of New York families," he said.

The governor also outlined a budget proposal that would double the state's allocation for textbooks, stressing that the new money would be earmarked for textbooks only, "not for textbooks and administration, not for textbooks and programs."

--KERRY A. WHTE

NORTH DAKOTA

Schafer Proposes Panel on Standards, Technology

As part of his $40 million increase in education funding, Gov. Edward T. Schafer wants to spend $1.3 million to support the development of academic standards and to equip North Dakota schools with more technology.

In his State of the State Address last week, the Republican yielded the floor to Lt. Gov. Rosemarie Myrdal, a former teacher, to explain the initiative.

Most of the work on standards and assessments would be started by a nine-member Standards and Technology Task Force to represent the state education department, the governor's office, the legislature, businesses, and parents.

--LINDA JACOBSON

VIRGINIA

Gov. Allen Seeks Legacy of School Improvements

Gov. George F. Allen proposed more than $30 million in new education efforts to cap his last year.

The Republican governor, who is barred from seeking re-election, is requesting $5 million to reduce class sizes in grades K-3 and $6.2 million for teaching materials connected to the state's newly adopted academic standards.

Gov. Allen also proposed that the lawmakers approve $7.8 million in school construction funds and money for a new summer reading program.

--JESSICA PORTNER

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