News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Kentucky Ends Session Without State Budget
Kentucky school districts are preparing budgets for the 2004-05
school year on the assumption that they will receive a 2 percent
increase over current levels.
They have no choice but to make an educated guess, however, because the legislature adjourned last month without passing a budget. Gov. Ernie Fletcher told superintendents in a meeting in late April that he would use his executive authority to pay for government activities when a new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, said districts could expect $3,201 per student in the state’s funding formula. That would amount to $2 billion in the next school year, a $4.2 million increase from current levels, according to state education department figures.
The governor met with legislative leaders last week in an effort to find a compromise on their differences over taxes and state spending. Democrats hold the majority in the House, while Republicans lead the Senate.
Mr. Fletcher is considering calling a special budget session before the fiscal year begins.
—David J. Hoff
Mass. House Takes Move Toward Universal Preschool
Massachusetts lawmakers took a major step toward providing universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, when the House unanimously passed an early-education plan on April 28.
Pushed by Speaker of the House Thomas M. Finneran, the plan would establish a department of early education that would administer a program of early education for all youngsters in that age group.
"We are elated," said Margaret Blood, the director of the Early Education for All campaign, which has been pushing for universal early education in Massachusetts. "It’s huge."
Lawmakers have not put a dollar figure on the plan, but Early Education for All estimates it would cost about $1 billion over 10 years. The House measure passed just days after a state judge ruled that the state needs to do more to provide students in low-income districts with a high-quality education and referred to early education in her recommendations. ("Mass. School Funding Comes Up Short, Judge Rules," May 5, 2004.)
The early-education plan must also be approved by the Senate. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, has not said whether he would sign the measure.
Ariz. Parents Like Schools, Support Standardized Tests
Most Arizona parents are pleased with the schools their children attend, support standardized testing, and consider inadequate funding as the biggest challenge facing the state’s K-12 education system, according to a study.
Plenty percent of the parents surveyed in March for the study by researchers at Arizona State University said they agree with using standardized-test scores to rank a school’s academic performance. In addition, 58 percent agreed that students should be required to pass the state’s standardized test to earn a high school diploma.
Fifty-nine percent chose "lack of funding, resources," as the biggest single challenge facing their local schools.
The study—based on a telephone survey of a random sampling of 400 parents statewide and an additional, targeted statewide sample of 355 Hispanic parents—was financed by the Arizona Education Policy Initiative, an effort led by ASU to use university resources to improve public schools. The margin of error on the survey questions was 4.9 percentage points and 5.2 percentage points, respectively, for the two survey groups.
— Darcia Harris Bowman
Conn. Begins Release Of Delayed Test Results
After a three-month delay caused by scoring glitches, the Connecticut Department of Education has released results from mathematics and reading sections of the Connecticut Mastery Tests.
A second and final batch of reading and writing scores from the tests, which were given to 4th, 6th, and 8th graders this past fall, is due in mid-June.
Though the scores are usually ready in January, state officials returned this year’s exams to the test contractor, CTB/McGraw- Hill, of Monterey, Calif., after raising concerns about the results. ("Connecticut Tests Delayed by Scoring Glitches," Feb. 11, 2004.)
Thomas Murphy, a spokesman for the education department, said the new results would allow schools to make decisions about summer school and student remediation. "That was very good news," he said of the release of the scores. "It demonstrates we are on track."
The remaining data will allow the state to identify schools that have not met their annual progress goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
—Robert C. Johnston
Kansas Bill Gives Break To Undocumented Students
The Kansas legislature passed a bill last week that would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at the state’s public universities.
The bill, which was passed by the Senate on May 3 and by the House the next day, would require undocumented immigrants seeking the lower tuition either to have either attended an accredited Kansas high school for three or more years and graduated or to have earned a General Educational Development certificate in Kansas.
Such students must also show that they are in the process of obtaining legal immigration status, or that they plan to do so in a timely manner. At the Manhattan campus of Kansas State University, in-state tuition and fees run $2,961 per year, compared with $10,325 per year for nonresidents.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, plans to sign the bill. "In the long- run, we will be a stronger state with a better-educated workforce because of this measure," she said in a statement.
—Catherine A. Carroll
Vol. 23, Issue 36, Page 21