News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Davis Pushes Modest Budget Hike for Education in His 2000 Budget
Despite his ambitious legislative agenda for schools, California Gov. Gray Davis proposed only a modest 4.6 percent spending increase for K-12 education in the 1999-2000 budget plan he released Jan. 8.
Under Mr. Davis' first budget as governor, California's 8,000 public K-12 schools would get $23.1 billion from the state--up from $22.5 billion in the current fiscal year. The increase would raise per-pupil spending to $5,944, which is $192 above the current spending levels for the state's 5.7 million students.
Gov. Davis, a Democrat, said he is being frugal because the state's roaring economy is showing signs of slowing. He can make revisions in May, however, when new economic data are available.
The highlight of his plan is a $444 million package of new programs for school accountability, literacy, and teacher preparation. Those proposals will form the basis of his agenda going into a special legislative session on education that was scheduled to start this week. ("Davis Makes Big Push for Accountability in Calif. Schools," Jan. 13, 1999.)
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin said in a written statement that the plan would provide money to build on recent reforms while mandating new money for innovation. "I am pleased," she said.
--Robert C. Johnston
Vt. Sues 'Gold Towns' Over Finance Law
Attorney General William Sorrell of Vermont is suing three towns that have refused to turn over revenue collected under the state's fiercely debated school finance law, Act 60.
The three towns--Dover, Searsburg, and Whitingham--withheld a total of $648,000 in property-tax revenues that were supposed to be turned over to the state on Dec. 1. Under Act 60, the state set a statewide property tax, which is redistributed to districts according to their wealth. The law, which Vermont began implementing in late 1997, seeks to equalize funding between schools in well-to-do resort towns with strong tax bases and those in poor rural communities.
All three of the towns being sued are considered "gold towns," which, under Act 60, saw their taxes climb while the state aid they received for their schools dropped. ("In Vermont's Funding Shakeup, a Bitter Pill for the 'Gold Towns,'" Oct. 28, 1998.)
In another blow to the gold towns, the Vermont Supreme Court last month rejected a suit to overturn Act 60. The court said it was too early to tell whether the law inflicts an unfair hardship on affluent towns.
-- Joetta L. Sack
Vol. 18, Issue 19, Page 17