Bayh Aims To Build Political Consensus on Reforms

February 01, 1989 9 min read

Indiana’s Democratic and Republican political leaders should “reject the partisan posturing of the past” and work together to help improve the public schools, the state’s new governor has urged.

Gov. B. Evan Bayh 3rd made the plea Jan. 17 in his first State of the State Message.

The November elections left Indiana with a potentially volatile political lineup. The Governor is a Democrat; the state school superintendent, H. Dean Evans, is a Republican; the gop holds a slim edge in the Senate; and the House is equally divided between the two parties.

The Governor “views his role as trying to provide the leadership to bring together an educational consensus,” Stan Jones, Mr. Bayh’s education aide, said last week. “He is encouraging the legislature, special-interest groups, and the department of education to work together.’'

Bayh’s Proposals

In his address, Mr. Bayh proposed:

Increasing funding for an existing program for “at risk” children from $20 million to $40 million, and requiring districts to use 40 percent of the money for preschool education.

Providing $20 million in “challenge-incentive grants” to districts, which could be used in areas including mathematics and science, English and communications, parental involvement, innovative teaching methods, “latchkey” children, community service, and enrichment programs.

Creating a professional-standards board that would set “rigorous but fair standards for those entering the teaching profession.” Half of the panel’s 10 members would be teachers, and the remainder would be drawn from experts in the field of education.

Offering college scholarships to high-school graduates whose family income qualifies them for aid and who score above 500 on the math portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Predecessor’s Reforms

Thus far, Mr. Bayh has not called for drastic changes in the state’s “A+ Program,” a school-reform effort championed by Mr. Evans and the former Republican Governor, Robert D. Orr. The program has been a frequent target of criticism from the politically powerful Indiana State Teachers Association.

Lawmakers, however, have filed proposed amendments to the 1987 reform law that would eliminate a $10-million “performance award” program for schools with high attendance rates and test scores; allow districts to use two days in the 180-day school year for parent-teacher conferences; and alter the criteria for passing statewide standardized tests so that more students qualify for remedial help.

Governor Bayh has not taken a position on the proposed changes, but he “is willing to consider refinements” in the program, Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Evans backs a bill that would toughen the passing criteria on the Indiana Statewide Test for Educational Progress so that more students qualify for summer remedial programs, according to his spokesman, Joseph DiLaura.

Mr. DiLaura noted, however, that the superintendent opposes proposals to alter the school calendar and scrap the performance-award program. Such measures, Mr. DiLaura said, would “take the state backward.”

Damon P. Moore, president of the ista, said the union backs moves to add parent-teacher conferences to the school year, and to eliminate the school-performance awards. The money “could be better spent on at-risk students,” he said.

Mr. Moore also said the union supports modifying the istep program to deemphasize test scores and give teachers a greater role in identifying students for remedial help.--dc


Education, Child Issues

Top Miller’s Agenda

Nevada’s new governor has told the legislature that supporting education and improving the conditions of the state’s children will be the ''highest priority” of his administration.

“Let’s begin this legislative session with one very clear-cut understanding,” Gov. Bob Miller said in his first State of the State Message. “Nothing is more important to me than the teaching and protection of Nevada’s children.”

Mr. Miller, the state’s former lieutenant governor, took office on Jan. 4. He succeeded Richard H. Bryan, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.

The Governor’s proposed budget for the upcoming biennium would raise state aid to schools by 24 percent, from $540.9 million to $670.6 million. Spending for all levels of education represents 57 percent of his $3.8-billion overall budget plan.

Mr. Miller called for increased taxes on the state’s $1.4-billion mining industry to support his proposed increases for education and children’s programs.

“With a slightly larger share from mining, we can make kindergartens available to every Nevada child, particularly in rural communities where kindergarten instruction is not available,” the Governor said.

Mr. Miller also proposed raising teachers’ salaries by at least 5 percent during the next two years, and possibly by another 3 percent to 5 percent “depending on available revenue.”

“Teachers are the heart and soul of our children’s learning,” he said. “Frankly, they deserve more. This is just a first step toward fairly and justly compensating our teachers for the vital function they perform.”

Mr. Miller also suggested spending $3.4 million in the second year of the biennium to reduce pupil-teacher ratios in kindergarten through 3rd grade from 28 to 1 to 19 to 1.

In addition, he called for the creation of a “children’s resources bureau,” which would coordinate state programs aimed at stemming the ''increasing trends of alcohol and drug abuse, poor school performance, ... juvenile deliquency, gangs, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, and the ultimate tragedy, teen suicide.”

He also asked lawmakers to authorize him to appoint a “drug czar,” who would oversee state efforts to eliminate drug trafficking. Mr. Miller said the drug trade had fueled the growth of youth gangs in Nevada.

Key state educators have praised the Governor’s education initiatives.

“It is really a very strong children’s agenda,” said Eugene T. Paslov, the state superintendent of public instruction. The plan to reduce pupil-teacher ratios, he added, is “a very bold step in the right direction.”

Lyndsey Jydstrup, a spokesman for the Nevada State Education Association, last week called the Governor’s proposal “a good beginning for education.”

She noted that the association backs a measure currently before the legislature that would impose a tax on corporate income to help raise revenues for education.--pw


Cowper Proposes Creating

Endowment for Education

Gov. Steve Cowper of Alaska has unveiled a plan to use interest earned from the state’s Permanent Fund to create an endowment for public schools.

The Governor announced the proposed constitutional amendment in his annual address to lawmakers last month. If passed by the legislature, it would be placed on the ballot for voter approval in the fall of 1990.

The Permanent Fund receives its revenues from taxes on oil production. Under the Governor’s plan, 40 percent of the interest earned by the fund would be placed in a special education account through the year 2010. The state could not begin spending the money until the year 2000.

According to the Governor’s office, the education endowment would have $6.3 billion in principal by the turn of the century and would generate about $500 million a year in interest.

“That means that after oil money has come and gone, the education of our children will be a sure thing,” Mr. Cowper told legislators.

Revenues from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields are expected to drop by one-half within 10 years. Currently, about half of all Permanent Fund earnings are used to provide cash “dividends” to state residents. The payments are expected to be set at $840 this year.

To build support for the proposal, Mr. Cowper plans to travel across the state and is distributing a promotional videotape.--mw


Wilkinson Calls For

Educational ‘Perestroika’

Invoking a term made famous by the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson last week declared that Kentucky’s education system needs a dose of “perestroika,” or restructuring.

And the Governor compared opposition to his school-reform plans to the resistance Mr. Gorbachev is facing from old-line factions opposed to drastic changes in the Soviet Union.

“Nothing short of a complete restructuring of our schools will allow substantial improvement,” he said in his annual legislative address. “Just as Mr. Gorbachev is encountering re4sistance from the entrenched Soviet bureaucracy to his free-market-oriented ideas, so, too, am I being opposed by the disciples of the status quo in Kentucky education.”

In last year’s biennial legislative session, lawmakers defeated Mr. Wilkinson’s reform plan, which called for the establishment of experimental “benchmark” schools and financial incentives to schools to boost achievement.

The Governor is expected to offer the plan again in a special session on education he will convene later this year.

Legislative leaders generally favor funding the reforms mandated in a 1984 special session on educa8tion. They include higher teacher salaries, reductions in class sizes, and greater efforts to equalize spending in poorer districts.

But Mr. Wilkinson, who is trying to fulfill a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, said in his address that he “is not willing to call for new taxes just to continue the same old stuff.”

The Governor has urged that the special legislative session focus on how to restructure the system, rather than on funding.

Both the Governor and the legislature, however, may be forced to confront the funding issue this year if the Kentucky Supreme Court upholds a lower-court ruling that the state’s school-finance system is unconstitutional.--rrw


Waihee Supports System

Of Local Control

Gov. John Waihee of Hawaii has asked lawmakers to review proposals for decentralizing the nation’s only state-run school system.

“By 1999, we want public schools that are managed by a system of accountability based on local control,” Mr. Waihee said in his annual State of the State Message.

In addition to the review of options--such as appointed school boards or a network of locally elected boards--the legislature should consider an appropriate constitutional amendment to enact the governance change, the Governor said.

In the meantime, he added, a “school/community-based management program that puts schools in charge of their own affairs” should be instituted.

The speech, which drew on recommendations made by a reform panel created by the Hawaii Business Roundtable, also called for the expansion of early-childhood-education programs and the creation of a parental-choice system that would be “open and equitable.”

Legislators should take advantage, the Governor said, of the renewed public commitment to education exemplified by the “Hawaii Plan,” the recently released report by the business-roundtable panel. (See Education Week, Jan. 18, 1989.)

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1989 edition of Education Week as Bayh Aims To Build Political Consensus on Reforms