The following offers education-related highlights of the recent legislative sessions. The enrollment figures are based on estimated fall 2001 data reported by the National Center for Education Statistics for prekindergarten through 12th grade in public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending include money for state education administration, but not federal, flow-through dollars, unless otherwise noted.
Salary Funds Remain
After Deep Budget Cuts
It took two special sessions and intensive negotiations between Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Republican-dominated state legislature to address the Hawkeye State’s multimillion-dollar shortfall in the current fiscal year, as well as for the 2002-03 budget.
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To balance the 2001-02 budget, Iowa legislators and the governor pulled about $219 million from economic-emergency funds, cash reserves, and other miscellaneous funding. Every state agency had to contend with an average 6 percent budget cut to make up for a $300 million decrease in state revenues before the 2001-02 fiscal year even began.
The department of education closed its offices for two half-days earlier this month to cope with cuts to its $5 million budget.
The economic picture isn’t any brighter for the 2002-03 fiscal year, as lawmakers grappled with a projected $220 million shortfall. Still, legislators managed to protect per-pupil funding for school districts in the state’s $2.2 billion budget for K-12 education. The portion of the budget that covers per-student funding to school districts increased by $59 million, or 1 percent, over fiscal 2002 to $1.7 billion.
The full $40 million set aside for Iowa’s ambitious teacher-quality initiative—which hinges on a salary plan that pays teachers based on their work performance and student achievement— survived the tight budget situation. This year all Iowa districts must participate in the new salary schedule and mentoring programs for new teachers. About $30 million for class-size reduction was left untouched as well.
“That we got any increase in funding for schools is good news,” said Kathi Slaughter, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education.
Yet not every portion of the education budget was spared the budget ax. Technology, school-to-work programs, the state’s involvement in the federal AmeriCorps program, and vocational education were among the fiscal victims.
The legislature completely eliminated the K-12 technology budget, to the tune of $5.7 million. But school districts can tap their class-size-reduction funds to make up some of the difference. Lawmakers also wiped out all of the roughly $185,000 in funding for school-to-work programs, about $142,000 for AmeriCorps after-school programs, and $80,000 for youth vocational organizations.
Iowa also passed its first charter school law. Under the statute, Iowa can now establish 10 pilot charter schools. Local districts would charter the schools, which could grow out of current programs or be new schools. All charter schools must be approved by the state board of education, under the law.
—Karla Scoon Reid
Overriding Third Veto,
Legislature Passes Budget
In an extraordinary move, the New Mexico legislature voted to override Gov. Gary Johnson’s third veto of its $3.9 billion budget bill in a special session May 24.
Under the fiscal 2003 budget passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, schools would get $1.66 billion, which means spending on public education will increase $2.6 million, or less than 1 percent, over current levels.
In vetoing the bill for the third time, the Republican governor had called it financially irresponsible, and said it would underfund state agencies.
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“I made a promise to New Mexicans when I was first elected to this office over seven and a half years ago that I would never leave the state in worse fiscal shape than when I took office,” Gov. Johnson said in a statement at the time of the May 24 veto. “I have not and will not sign a budget that constitutes a step toward a future tax increase.”
The state faced a possible government shutdown July 1 if a budget had not been passed. The Senate voted 36- 4, and the House voted 62-7, to override the third and final veto.
The New Mexico Education Association called the budget bare-bones and pointed out that it provided for no increase for teacher pay or health-insurance costs.
In other news, Gov. Johnson vetoed a bill in March that would have created an Indian education division within the New Mexico Department of Education to handle Native American education issues. He argued that such matters are already adequately handled within the department.
Also, he vetoed a bill that would have divided the Albuquerque schools into three separate districts. He opposed the bill because the start-up costs to create three new districts from the 85,000-student Albuquerque school system would have been too high. If any of the three districts had included a smaller commercial tax base than the others, he added, homeowners likely would have to make up the difference in order to equalize funding.
A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2002 edition of Education Week as Capitol Recap