Governors Call School Improvement a Top Priority

January 25, 1984 16 min read

Education continued last week to be called a “top priority” in annual state-of-the-state messages by governors across the country. And most requested increases of several percentage points at least in their budgets for schools. Among the addresses:


Gov. George Deukmejian of California, no longer facing a deficit because of the state’s recovering economy, has proposed a $900-million funding increase for public schools.

“Education is the key to California’s future if we are to continue to maintain a leadership position in our nation and the world,” the Governor said in a message to the legislature accompanying proposed increases in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Under his proposal, state and local funding for California’s public schools would rise from about $11 billion to $11.9 billion. However, Governor Deukmejian, who last year signed an ambitious school finance-reform bill, suggested that his commitment to additional funding hinges on enactment of further education changes.

“Additional reforms are required if we are to truly revitalize California’s system of K-12 education,” the Governor said.

He did not specify the changes he seeks but said he will submit them shortly.

His new budget proposal would:

  • Provide funds, envisioned in the 1983 bill, to encourage districts to lengthen their academic year, currently about five days below the national average, to 180 days; pay for summer classes in mathematics, science, and other “core” courses; and furnish the second installment of increased funding for higher starting-teacher salaries and textbooks;
  • Restore $211 million he vetoed last year from state contributions to the teachers’ retirement system, and return to the full contribution of $301 million this year; and
  • Give schools a 3-percent cost-of-living increase for both regular and categorical education programs, down from the 6 percent foreseen by the legislature last year.
  • Democratic leaders in the Senate have unveiled a proposal that would give schools not merely an additional $1.1 billion, but an extra $234 million for such new educational improvements as attracting better teachers and upgrading students’ writing skills.

    William Honig, California’s superintendent of public instruction, said the Governor’s proposed budget “shows strong support for public education in California.” Mr. Honig said the proposed $900-million increase in funding should serve “as a bottom line, a floor below which funding will not fall.”


    Gov. Richard D. Lamm said during his address to the 1984 legislature, which stressed the importance of education to the state’s economic welfare, that the state’s school-finance law “is living on borrowed time” and should be rewritten.

    In asking the legislature to review the finance statute, the Governor said the current method of funding is “complex and does not promote the common goals of improved quality and equalized opportunity.” He said future legislation should equalize opportunities for all students and provide incentives for excellence.

    The Governor also said he would like a new school-finance law that redistributes obligations and responsibilities between the state and local school districts.

    The state now provides 40 percent of the total spending on education, and its share represents about 31 percent of its general fund. In fiscal 1982, the state spent $3 dollars per student per hour, which, according to the Governor, “is not much more than we pay for baby sitters.”

    In order to compete with its neighbors--New Mexico and Arizona--the Governor said the state will need to spend $10 million to $20 mil-lion a year beyond what it now contributes to research and development at its public colleges and universities.

    The Governor was scheduled to submit an “executive budget” last week. But that budget is considered an advisory document for consideration by the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, which has responsibility for state appropriations.

    This year, the state education budget is $785.4 million, according to Doug Bassett, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Education.


    Gov. Joe Frank Harris of Georgia last week presented the state legislature with a $4.3-billion general-funds budget for fiscal 1985 that calls for an 11-percent ($165 million) increase in spending for education.

    “My number-one priority in this year’s budget is public education,” Governor Harris said. He called for an education budget of $1.542 billion, not including additional allocations of $72 million for 20-year bonds for school construction and $8 million to pay principal and interest on the bonds.

    In addition, Governor Harris set aside $103 million for a teacher-compensation package for fiscal 1985 that would raise teacher salaries by as much as 12.5 percent next year. The Governor’s plan would raise the salaries of all state employees (including school administrators and teachers) by 3 percent. All teachers would receive an additional 7-percent salary increase and those with 18 years or more of experience would receive an additional 2.5-percent raise, according to Ellis Bateman, director of budget services and federal relations for the Georgia Department of Education.

    “The special teacher-pay package will move Georgia to the forefront in both national and Southeastern states rankings,” the Governor said. “This pay package represents the largest dollar increase in teacher pay in the history of our state and will result in the largest percentage pay increase for schoolteachers in over a decade.”

    The plan would raise the average salary of teachers this year to $20,867 and give starting teachers a $14,329 base salary, an increase of $1,303 from last year, according to Mr. Bateman.


    In Hawaii, Gov. George R. Ariyoshi has asked the legislature, which convenes this week for a $1.2-million boost in school funds for fiscal year 1985, on top of the $396 million already appropriated. No tax increase will be required for the budget increase, said state officials.

    The new money, if approved, will be spent on more teachers, textbooks, and equipment that are needed because enrollment in the state’s public schools has increased slightly more than expected. “There are no new programs. This is a supplemental budget year, so the Governor can only recommend new money where there was an unforseen emergency or expenses,” explained Carl Sakata, budget administrator for the state department of education.


    In a positive speech reflecting the state’s improved economic condition, Gov. John V. Evans of Idaho said in his state-of-the-state address last week that he would work to restore funds to the many service programs that suffered cuts during the recession. He proposed an education budget about $75 million above the 1983-84 appropriation.

    The total budget the Governor has proposed is $559.9 million, $85 million above last year’s requests, and $108 million above the 1983-84 legislative appropriation.

    About 72 percent of the budget request is slated for education programs, said Barbara Swaczy, special assistant to the Governor.

    The additional $75 million would be used to fund reforms proposed by the Governor’s Task Force on Education in November, the Governor said in his address.

    Those reforms include increased teacher salaries, a six-period school day for all high-school students, increased high-school graduation requirements, updating vocational-education programs, establishing multiple levels of courses “over and above the minimums,” and improving the state’s schools of education.


    The Iowa legislature convened last week to enact a budget for fiscal 1985, having failed last year to pass the second year of what was supposed to be a biennial budget.

    Among other items, the lawmakers are considering Gov. Terry E. Branstad’s recommendation that general aid to school districts be increased by about $44 million, to $707 million out of a fiscal 1985 budget of about $2 billion. Because state general aid to schools is driven by a formula that remains essentially the same from year to year,the increase will automatically go into effect unless the legislature alters it.

    The bulk of the increase in general aid, according to Max M. Miller, administrative assistant to Governor Branstad, will go toward maintaining existing programs. But the Governor has proposed a few new initiatives, including an awards program to recognize schools that have made significant improvements.

    He has also recommended that the state encourage districts to earmark funds for staff development by permitting them to raise an additional $1 in property taxes for every $2 they spend out of existing funds on inservice programs. And he has proposed increasing the incentives for districts to pool students and resources to offer courses for which demand is low--particularly upper-level high-school courses. The cost to the state would be about $60,000 for current cooperative programs, Mr. Miller said.

    Governor Branstad’s plan calls for no increase in general taxes but recommends boosts in gasoline taxes, drivers’ license fees, and alcoholic-beverage prices, the proceeds of which will be earmarked for the state highway patrol, roads, and substance-abuse programs.


    Gov. John Carlin, calling education one of the “quiet crises” endangering the quality of life in Kansas--and his top priority this year--asked the legislature to approve an 11.6-percent increase in school funds

    The additional $54.3 million would raise the current education budget to $519.7 million. The added funds, the Governor said, are to be used primarily as a stimulus to districts to increase teacher salaries by about 10 percent.

    The general fund from tax receipts, out of which support for schools comes, is estimated at $1.67 billion in the new budget. Of that amount, about 42 percent will go to precollegiate education, an aide to the Governor said.

    In 1982, the average salary of Kansas teachers was $18,231. The projected average salary of teachers this year is $19,598, the aide said.

    Under the Governor’s teacher-salary plan, the state would allow districts to increase their budgets by 2 percent more than is now permitted under state law.

    To be eligible for the higher spending authority, the districts would have to increase spending on salaries by the same percentage as the increase they receive in state aid, and they would have to use the additional 2-percent budget authority for salaries.

    Under another proposal, candidate for teaching certificates also would be required to pass the National Teacher Examination starting in the spring of 1986. The Governor asked the legislature to appropriate $115,000 this year to determine whether the nte is ap-propriate for Kansas teachers.

    The Governor also called for the creation of a one-year internship program for prospective teachers. Under the proposal, first-year teachers would be required to teach under the supervision of a master teacher, school administrator, and education-school faculty member. Now, the state requires a two-year probation period; candidates who successfully passed the internship would start their second probationary year. The program would begin in the fall of 1986.

    Governor Carlin also asked the legislature to provide an additional $1 million in matching funds to districts with plans for inservice training programs for teachers. He also asked legislators to provide $230,000 to continue a competency-testing program in mathematics and reading for students in the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades; to raise the number of mathematics and science credits required for graduation from one to two each; and to add a new half-year computer-science requirement. Those requirements would be phased in beginning in 1986.


    Gov. Thomas H. Kean last week in his state-of-the-state address recommitted himself to improving education in New Jersey and announced that he will soon launch “a major, comprehensive” initiative to address the problems of the state’s urban schools.

    “There come times when certain issues become so vital to the quality of our society and to its very survival that we ignore them at our peril. Today, education is such an issue,” he said during a 45-minute speech to the 201st New Jersey legislature.

    Governor Kean noted the actions his administration took during 1983 to improve the state’s schools. And he said he has directed the state’s department of education to provide him by March with a “workable plan” to upgrade New Jersey’s urban schools. “The program I am recommending recognizes the need to set and adhere to the same rigorous standards for urban students as for all others,” he said.

    He added that the new initiative would also provide a “support structure” for urban students and “deal directly” with such problems as drug and alcohol abuse, which he described as “a particularly destructive force in a significant number of urban schools.”

    Governor Kean also announced in his speech to the legislature that in his budget for the next fiscal year, which will be announced separately on Jan. 30, he will propose that the state fund a “special program” for retraining mathematics and science teachers and training teachers in other fields who would be used to help fill shortages in the math and science fields.


    Two days after a key committee in the House of Representatives unanimously approved his comprehensive education-reform package, Gov. Richard W. Riley told a joint session of the legislature that the state has what an aide called a “once-in-a-decade chance” to fundamentally transform the state’s school system.

    The Governor asked the legislature to approve a $2.4-billion state budget that includes $210 million for education reforms proposed last year. Those proposals include new initiatives in remedial education, a school-improvement award, early-childhood education, programs for gifted and talented students, and more state-mandated testing. (See Education Week, Nov. 9, 1983.)

    The education committee of the House voted 18-to-0 to approve the specific recommendations made by Governor Riley and Superintendent Charlie G. Williams. The panel did not pass judgment on the Governor’s proposals for financing the reforms, however. Those proposals, which include a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, will be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee.

    The education reforms would cost the state about $1.2 billion over the next five years, aides said.


    Gov. Scott M. Matheson of Utah ranked education as his top priority for the coming year in his biennial budget address to the state legislature and in a prime-time televised speech to Utah citizens last week.

    “Repeated budget cuts sustained by public and higher education are beginning to erode educational quality,” the Governor said in his address to the legislature.

    Governor Matheson requested a total state budget of $2.4 billion, with $313 million earmarked for higher education and $861 million for elementary and secondary education. He requested an additional $148 million to finance an educational-reform package and offset the increased costs of the state’s rapidly growing school-age population.

    The Governor’s reform agenda also addresses higher teacher salaries and attracting better candidates to the profession.

    This year’s budget request represents a 15.7-percent increase for schools and a 16.1-percent increase for higher education. His total 1985 budget proposal represents an 11.8-percent increase over the 1984.

    The Governor proposed income, sales, corporate, and other tax increases to support his proposals. “I would not ask either the legislature or the public to support dramatic budget increases for education,” he said, “unless I believed that our tax dollars will be used wisely.”


    Gov. Richard A. Snelling has renewed his request for legislative backing of an early-childhood-education initiative and asked also for a $10-million increase in state aid to education.

    In his address to the legislature earlier this month, the Governor proposed tax increases that would be used to offset the state’s current financial problems. One of the tax proposals--a half-cent increase in the state sales tax--would be used to support the Governor’s education initiatives.

    The increase in the sales tax is expected to generate $3 million to support the early-childhood initiative and $7 million would be distributed to the schools.

    In addition to the $10 million, the Governor will request later this month a 5-percent increase in general state aid to education, according to David Dillon, the Governor’s press secretary. The state contributes between 25 percent and 30 percent of the total cost of education.

    Mr. Dillon said that $7 million would be distributed to school districts through the state-aid formula and that the Governor proposes to use the money “to increase teacher salaries and upgrade performance standards in the schools.”

    The Governor, who announced he will not seek re-election for a fifth term this year, said improving the quality of education “is the single most important thing the state can do for its future.”


    Gov. John D. Rockefeller 4th, in his address last week to the West Virginia legislature, termed education his top priority. The Governor called for major initiatives to raise the salaries of teachers and school service personnel and to modernize school buildings.

    The Governor’s $1.47 billion general-funds budget set aside $716.3 million for K-12 programs for fiscal 1985, an increase of about $25.5 million from last year, according to Marie L. Prezioso, deputy commissioner of finance and administration for the state.

    “We must make a special and determined effort to increase salaries for our school teachers and school service personnel in elementary and secondary education,” the Governor said in his address.

    He proposed a “three-pronged” compensation package that includes a 7.5-percent across-the-board increase in the base salary for teachers and school service personnel. Under the plan, average base salaries for teachers would rise $1,180 and the average salary for support personnel would rise by $700.

    The Governor also called for additional “experience increments” that would provide an additional average raise of $321 for teachers and $180 for service personnel.

    If the state has a surplus at the end of the year, Governor Rockefeller said he would set aside an additional $29 million for “equalization increases” as called for by the Master Plan for Education that was ordered by a West Virginia trial judge last March. That would provide teachers and service personnel with an additional average raise of $730 and $460, respectively.

    The Governor set aside $600 million for bonds for the construction of school buildings over the next 10 years. The measure must be approved by state voters in November 1984 if it receives the approval of the states lawmakers.

    In his address, Governor Rockefeller proposed legislation to allow teachers and school personnel to credit unused sick leave toward retirement and to retire after 30 years of service no matter what their age.

    He also called for a statewide levy for schools.

    The Governor allocated $489,000 for development and administration of a statewide examination to measure student learning outcomes; $200,000 for a microcomputer network program; and $195,000 for an advanced-training academy for school principals to improve their effectiveness. He also allocated funds to programs for gifted students and in the humanities.

    The fiscal 1985 budget also set aside $111,000 for county school accreditation programs, $57,000 for a school-facilities study, and $448,000 for libraries.

    The Governor presented no new tax proposals, said Ms. Prezioso.

    A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 1984 edition of Education Week as Governors Call School Improvement a Top Priority