Education

Capitol Recap

April 28, 2004 5 min read
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The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.

Indiana | South Dakota | Utah | Wyoming

Indiana

Lawmakers Defeat
Major School Bills

The Indiana legislature defeated two bills in the 2004 session that state education officials argued would have delivered significant educational improvements.

One of those bills aimed to provide funds for full-day kindergarten, and the other sought to require school districts to address bullying.

Democrat
Senate:
18 Democrats
32 Republicans

House:
51 Democrats
49 Republicans

Enrollment:
1 million

Partisan politics hampered passage of both bills, according to Terry Spradlin, the legislative liaison for the state department of education. “A lot of bills fell because of stalemates in the House,” he said.

A proposal that would have given 20,000 children the chance to attend full-day kindergarten was a high priority for Gov. Joseph E. Kernan. But while legislators seemed to agree that full-day kindergarten is beneficial, they couldn’t agree on a source of funding, according to Mr. Spradlin.

The legislature did pass several education bills, including a law backed by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus that calls for “cultural competency” among educators, said Mr. Spradlin.

That law requires the Indiana Professional Standards Board to develop guidelines and help teacher-preparation programs in colleges and universities teach about cultural diversity and awareness.

In 2003, the legislature passed a budget of $22.8 billion for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. The K-12 education budget for fiscal 2005, which begins July 1, is $5.11 billion, an increase of 1 percent over the $5.05 billion approved for fiscal 2004. The state plans to address a projected fiscal 2004 deficit of $1 billion, in part, by delaying state-aid payments to schools.

—Mary Ann Zehr

South Dakota

Education Issues Upstaged
By Taxes, Abortion

Education issues generated fewer sparks in the South Dakota legislature this year than debates over abortion and sales-tax bills. Nonetheless, bills signed by Gov. Mike Rounds could have far-reaching consequences.

Lawmakers, for example, directed the state board of education to draw up standards for both a “basic” and a “recommended” high school curriculum, the latter with a greater emphasis on math and science.

Republican
Senate:
9 Democrats
26 Republicans

House:
21 Democrats
49 Republicans

Enrollment:
127,000

A series of public meetings will be held over the next year on what students need to know in order to graduate.Students would have to complete the recommended curriculum, starting in the 2006-07 school year, unless their parents and school officials agreed to allow them to take the basic program.

The bill also put money, for the first time, into the state’s merit- based Regents’ Scholarship for college, which lawmakers passed last year but failed to appropriate money for. Renaming it the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship and reducing the benefit by $1,000 per student over four years, the bill will provide $650,000, or $1,000 apiece, for 650 college freshmen next fall.

The money for the scholarship came from the state’s education enhancement trust, which is enjoying unexpectedly large earnings this year. The legislature also is directing $1.8 million from the fund to supplement aid to K-12 schools and postsecondary technical schools. The one-time grant to school districts works out to $15 per student.

Out of a total fiscal 2005 budget of $2.9 billion, general spending on K-12 education will fall nearly 7 percent, to $300 million, from the previous year.

—Andrew Trotter

Utah

State Education Budget Up;
Veto Overrides Sought

Though the legislative session ended March 3, Utah’s lawmakers were scheduled to return to the capital April 26 for a session to attempt to override some of Gov. Olene S. Walker’s vetoes.

Republican
Senate:
7 Democrats
22 Republicans

House:
19 Democrats
56 Republicans

Enrollment:
487,000

Gov. Walker vetoed six of 391 bills passed in the session and used her line-item veto on five budget items. Lawmakers decided last week they had the votes to override two of those vetoes: one limiting the dates for special elections; the other a law against unfair business practices, said Amanda Covington, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Legislators also planned to consider overriding a vetoed budget item that would provide state subsidies for deaf children to attend a charter school. It appeared last week that lawmakers lacked the votes to override a veto of the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships, which would have provided vouchers worth more than $5,000 for special education students to go to private schools. (“Gov. Walker Turns Down Voucher Bill,” March 31, 2004.)

Overall, the Utah state budget will go from $7.7 billion in fiscal 2004 to more than $8 billion in fiscal 2005, according to the governor’s office. The education budget increased by about 6 percent for 2005, from $2.03 billion to $2.16 billion, according to Patty Murphy, the budget administrator for the state office of education.

Gov. Walker was pleased that her Performance Plus reading program got the full $30 million she had hoped for.

—Michelle R. Davis

Wyoming

Lawmakers Mine
Natural Gas Funds

Blessed with a whopping $1.2 billion in natural gas revenue, the Wyoming legislature bolstered education funding by an extra $90 million for the two- year budget that covers fiscal years 2005 and 2006.

Basic education and school construction aid accounts for $1.4 billion of the state’s $2 billion in total spending for the biennium, which begins July 1.

Democrat
Senate:
10 Democrats
20 Republicans

House:
15 Democrats
45 Republicans

Enrollment:
88,000

The $1.4 billion budgeted for K-12 education in the two-year budget is an increase of just over 2 percent over the funding for the two-year cycle that ends June 30.

Legislators approved $294 million for school capital construction—up from about $118 million in the current budget. Included in new spending is $6 million for all-day kindergarten, as well as $1 million for a new foreign-language program.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, upon signing the budget on March 5, the last day of the four-week session, approved all but two sections. He vetoed a section of the bill that would have required extra revenue from state coal-lease revenue to go into a reserve account, which could easily have been tapped for other needs besides education.

Allowing that provision would have reduced the money available for school capital construction, the governor said in his veto letter. He also vetoed a section of the bill that had excluded mention—and therefore funding—of early-childhood programs and a student-activities consortium.

—Rhea R. Borja

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