Governors Seek Education Reforms, Spending Increases for Schools

February 01, 1984 18 min read

Hope Aldrich, Peggy Caldwell, Susan G. Foster, and Sheppard Ranbom contributed to this report.

Governors from nine states late last month gave their annual “state of the state” messages--and all but one called for new efforts this year to improve public education.

Approaches for funding education reforms ranged from a proposal in Maryland for using money saved in a reorganization of the state pension system to proposals in Missouri and New Mexico to increase state sales taxes.

Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio said he would not seek any new education initiatives this year but would instead concentrate on implementing reforms enacted last year.

The Nevada legislature is not meeting this year, but Gov. Richard H. Bryan says he will promote his ideas for reform in anticipation of reform initiatives next year.


Gov. Pierre S. du Pont 4th last week presented the Delaware legislature with a $797-million budget package that included an 8-percent, $20.9-million increase for education.

Funding for education would rise from $247.3 million to $268.2 million under the proposal, according to Jeffrey Welsh, the Governor’s press secretary.

In his education budget, Governor du Pont set aside $4.5 million to provide 4.3-percent pay raises for teachers; $300,000 to study a career-ladder plan to be established by July 1985; $300,000 to pay for professional-development courses for teachers; and $1 million to begin to equalize teacher salaries in the state.

The Governor said that by putting more than half of his proposed increases into teacher compensation, the state would make an important step towards recognizing the value of teachers. With the added compensation, he said, would come an expectation that teachers “improve the quality of instruction and depth of understanding of our students.”

Many of the Governor’s proposals were among the recommendations made by the state’s Task Force on Education for Economic Growth, whose final report was released last week, Mr. Welsh said. Governor du Pont is the outgoing chairman of the task force.

The Governor called for a $900,000 appropriation to provide matching funds for new textbooks; $300,000 to develop mastery tests for all grades; $700,000 for remedial education; $600,000 for computers; $1-million for mandatory kindergarten; $1-million to reduce class size in grades 1 to 3; and $200,000 to expand the state’s disruptive-youth program.

The Governor told the legislature that “there are things that we have to do that cost money” and suggested that there were other things that must be done that cost little. Among other proposals, he cited imposing tougher standards for homework and testing, improving core curricula, and increasing corporate involvement in education.

“We must remember that solutions that depend on the state’s financial resources and not on the human resources of the education community stand little chance of succeeding,” Governor du Pont said.

The Governor intends to propose a tax cut of between 5 and 8 percent across the board, according to Mr. Welsh, who said that “Delaware seems to have gotten out of the recession pretty well.”


Gov. Harry Hughes presented the legislature with a $3.7-billion general-fund budget that would raise expenditures for all education programs--including teacher retirement--to $1.21 billion in fiscal 1985.

The Governor’s education budget makes provisions for an increase of $84.12 million and includes supplemental funds to implement the less costly of two recommendations endorsed by a state commission that studied ways to equalize funding to school districts. Education funding would increase by $60 million more this year if the legislature adopts a plan to reform the state retirement system.

Under the Governor’s “supplemental” budget, the state’s expenditures for education would increase by a total of $605 million over the next five years to “improve the quality of education and to provide more nearly equal educational opportunity for all our citizens,” according to Governor Hughes.

The Governor developed the plan in response to a ruling last spring by the Maryland State Court of Appeals, which found, in Somerset v. Hornbeck, that the equalization of school funding was the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches but did not order such a reform, according to Larry Chamblin, a public-information specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Governor Hughes told the legislature that his call for increased aid to education was made with an “insistence on accountablity.” He said he would propose safeguards to assure that “the additional state aid is channeled to where it is most needed--in the classroom.”

Included in the Governor’s budget proposals were allocations for four-year scholarships to train prospective teachers in areas of critical need, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and earth science.

Students in these areas would receive full tuition, fees, room, and board up to the full cost of attending the University of Maryland--about $5,000 per year, said Sheila Tolliver, education aide to the Governor. A student would be required to teach for two years in Maryland for each year of scholarship received.

The Governor also proposed a plan aimed at attracting better college students to careers in teaching. The plan would increase the amount paid to winners in the state’s Distinguished Scholar Awards program from $800 to $1,600 annually if the students opted for teaching careers.

The Governor also called for $36 million to be set aside for school construction in 1985, Ms. Tolliver said.

The most controverisal part of the plan is likely to be the proposed change in the state retirement system. If enacted, the change would require all teachers and state employees to contribute more to the state retirement fund or to switch to the state pension fund. That would free other state funds; the Governor has earmarked those savings for the schools.

The Governor’s plan--supported by key legislators--would provide four options to state employees, according to Janice A. Piccinini, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association. Teachers and state employees could “buy out” of the state’s “generous” retirement system and enter the state’s pension system; they could “freeze and switch,’' receiving two checks when they retire, with the current number of years in the retirement system determining maximum benefits for that program; they could accept a 5-percent cap on the cost-of-living adjustments for the retirement program; or they could keep all benefits as they are but increase contributions by 40 percent, from 5 to 7 percent of their current salaries.

Leaders of teachers’ organizations say they are outraged by the Governor’s attempt to link changes in pension programs with increased aid to education. They say that the plan outlined by the Governor disregards a guarantee clause that was adopted by the Assembly in 1979. The clause stipulates that participants in the state pension system “could remain in the system without changes in benefits provided,” Ms. Piccinini said.

She said that the union would take the matter to court “immediately upon the Governor’s signature” if the Assembly approves the measure.


Gov. Michael S. Dukakis praised the education-reform efforts of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Education last month and announced he would propose a series of school-reform measures of his own.

In his address to the General Assembly, Governor Dukakis said he will propose a program that “would encourage our best young people to enter teaching as a career and will provide significant state resources for our public schools.”

The Governor said such measures are necessary in order to provide “a bright future for all our children, not just those fortunate enough to come from privileged families or wealthy suburbs.”

The Governor, who has not yet submitted his budget request for fis-cal 1985, stressed the importance of strengthening the state’s economic base and investing in “centers of excellence” at state colleges and universities to stimulate the development of high-technology industries.

But it is even more important, the Governor said, that the state invest in the schools because “it is here that our children’s future will be forged; it is here that the strength of our economy and the quality of our lives will be determined.

“The legislative committee on education has already done yeoman work in developing a series of recommendations to meet these goals,” the Governor said. “And we will continue to work with its members and with the full legislature on a thorough and comprehensive program of educational reform that will make Massachusetts schools the best in the nation.”

Over the next two months, the Governor said he will be meeting with parents, students, and teachers in communities that have implemented successful education programs.


Citing the need to preserve the state’s system of education as a “ladder of opportunity,” Gov. James J. Blanchard proposed an 8-percent increase in aid to public education while holding all other government expenses to current levels.

In his address last month to the 1984 legislature, Governor Blanchard said that his budget proposal “reflects our philosophy for Michigan’s future: We must shift from spending to real investment.” Calling the state’s education system one of his priorities, the Governor said that each citizen is responsible for ensuring that “the future [is] as full of opportunity as that which we inherited from our parents.”

“For that reason, in my zero budget, I am proposing that education be singled out for special treatment,” the Governor said. The state now contributes about $1.9 billion in aid to the schools.

“In the year ahead,” the Governor said, “support for kindergarten through grade 12 will rise by about 8 percent ... and support for higher education will rise by at least 6 percent.” He said higher-education institutions that freeze their tuition charges will receive a full 10-percent increase in state aid.

In his education budget proposal for fiscal 1985, the Governor is asking for $2.1 billion, an increase of about $172 million.

The Governor also offered an eight-point plan to promote excellence in education that includes a $400,000 computer initiative and the coordination of teacher-training programs. Governor Blanchard also advocated a statewide core curriculum for high-school students.


Gov. Christopher S. Bond last week released his official fiscal 1985 budget, calling for modest increases in spending for education.

While the $2.3-billion state budget would grow 6 to 7 percent for 1985, the governor raised funding for the state foundation program by only 2 percent, to $719 million, according to Robert Bartman, assistant commissioner in the division of administration for the state department of education.

Total appropriations for general revenue for K-12 programs were set at about $765.5 million, up from $761.9 million in 1984, according to Eli K. Montague, a section supervisor in the state division of budget and planning.

The Governor agreed to replace the $14 million he has withheld from the foundation program and to add an additional $13-million, Mr. Bartman said.

The Governor had sought the establishment of numerous new education programs during a special session in December, but the legislature refused to pass the tax increases that he had proposed to pay for them. He had sought to raise $150 million through a combination of a sales-tax increase and additional taxes on corporations, according to Nancy Vessell, a spokesman for Mr. Bond.

The Governor can make more funds available for education programs if revenues are greater than projected or if the cost for implenting desegregation in St. Louis is less than originally projected, according to Ms. Vessell.

Among the Governor’s top priorities for new programs are an expanded statewide testing program; summer institutes for gifted high-school students; a home-centered early-childhood education program; and hiring consultants so that the department of education can better help schools develop mathematics and science curricula, purchase computers, and develop computer literacy.

Addressing the legislature earlier this month, Governor Bond termed 1984 “the year of the public school.” He said that “these times call for greater emphasis on education, not only to supply well-trained labor for the jobs of the future but also to provide quality of life for all Missourians.”


The Nevada legislature will not meet in regular session this year, but Gov. Richard H. Bryan met with legislators and citizens anyway to promote his ideas for reforming Nevada’s education system.

At an open meeting, Governor Bryan said the statewide commission he established last year will, during the next few months, “review teacher preparation and qualifications, discipline in the classroom, and education for the disadvantaged.”

“The end result will be a comprehensive report to the 1985 legislature outlining the specific needs of schools of this state,” he said.

New standards of excellence will be developed, the Governor noted, in an effort to help schools obtain the best possible results from the increased state support he will seek from the legislature next year.


Gov. John H. Sununu, in his address to the 1984 legislature, said he plans to spend “a great deal of time on” education in the coming months because of the crucial contribution of schools to the state’s well-being.

Edward J. Lecius, the Governor’s press secretary, said that Mr. Sununu is working to “define clearly the current status of primary and secondary education system” and “to recognize the strengths of higher-education institutions” in the state.

In his speech, the Governor said he will continue with his reorganization plans, which include shifting some offices within the New Hampshire Department of Education. Part of that plan, however, has already taken effect with the creation of a separate panel to oversee postsecondary vocational-technical schools. The responsibility had previously belonged to the New Hampshire Board of Education.

The state’s biennial budget for fiscal 1984 and 1985 includes about $20 million in aid to elementary and secondary schools. In the next budget appropriations, according to Mr. Lecius, the Governor will be asking for “a slight increase” to assist the schools.


In presenting his $1.45-billion appropriations request to the legislature, Gov. Toney Anaya called for a one-cent increase in the state’s sales tax to raise $167 million for improvements in the education system, according to Vicki S. Phillips, a spokesman for the Governor.

Specifically, Governor Anaya called for a 16.2-percent increase in state aid for elementary and secondary schools. The Governor set aside $718.6 million for elementary and secondary education, an increase of $100.3 million over current expenditures, said Luciano R. Baca, associate director of the Governor’s office of education.

The budget package includes a plan to raise the basic unit for state per-pupil expenditures from $1,486 to $1,708. The increase would cost the state an additional $14.6 million annually and offset cuts made by the legislature in the size of the basic unit over the last two years.

The Governor recommended that entry-level salaries for teachers be raised from the state average of $14,800 per year to $16,300. This would boost the salary schedules of all teachers by about 16 percent, at an annual cost to the state of an additional $55 million, Mr. Baca said.

Another $9.2 million would be used to raise salaries of school personnel other than teachers by about 10 percent, according to Mr. Baca.

“Our future depends upon the commitments we make on improving the quality of our educational system,” Governor Anaya told the legislature. “We need to equip our children to compete and we need to train our citizens for the modern computer age to help attract industry. We can do this if we commit ourselves to excellence.”

Governor Anaya, citing results of the national survey released earlier this month by the U.S. Education Department, said that New Mexico “continues to lag behind the national average in almost every category measured, including being 31st in teacher-pupil ratio and 33rd in expenditure per pupil.”

If the state “is going to become serious about industrial recruitment,” the Governor said, legislators and citizens “must become serious about improving the quality of our educational system.”

Most of the Governor’s proposals are based on recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission on Public Schools, which first convened last July and released its findings earlier this month.

Among other budget recommendations are proposals to set aside $6.6 million for utilities and supplies and for lengthening the school year for teachers. Now, the New Mexico school year is 180 days. Teachers can use three of those days for inservice training. The new plan would give teachers 190-day contracts, allowing them to use 10 days for inservice training, collecting books, curriculum development, or whatever is important to their school district. The plan would cost the state an additional $15.8 million, Mr. Baca said.

The Governor also called for additional funding for two capital-outlay programs for schools. One program, which provides $12 million to 63 of the state’s 71 districts, would be funded at $14 million for fiscal 1985. The other program, which currently provides $18 million to districts that have exhausted all resources for capital improvements but still have critical needs, would be funded at $20 million in fiscal 1985. The capital-outlay programs would be funded by severance-tax bonds on minerals, as would a new three-year program to improve computer literacy in the state.

The Governor requested $5 million over each of the next three years to help districts purchase computer hardware and software. Under the program, the state would pay 70 percent of the cost with 30 percent to come from matching funds from districts.

Governor Anaya also called for the establishment of a three-year program to pay for high-technology equipment, word processors, and improved electrical maintenance at the state’s vocational schools. The Governor’s plan calls for $3 million for each of the next three years to be paid for by severance-tax bonds.

The fiscal 1985 budget also set aside $150,000 for the Governor’s Commission on Educational Excellence to extend its work by studying teacher preparation and certification and the need for higher educational standards in the state, according to Mr. Baca.


Having won a major tax increase and passage of his biennial budget last year, Gov. Richard F. Celeste concentrated in his State of the State address not on new initiatives but on his commitment to reforms that are already under way.

He pledged that the state would work with local school districts to develop testing procedures and remedial programs, both in keeping with the new state standards enacted by the state board of education in late 1982. Governor Celeste also promised state support for improved college-preparatory programs, as recommended by a joint commission on the transition from high school to college.

With vocational education “playing a central role in our plan to get Ohio back to work,” the Governor said, the state board of education and the board of regents should develop a comprehensive retraining program for adults and work to upgrade their existing vocational programs.

Without giving details, Governor Celeste also called on businesses to give students opportunities to work with up-to-date equipment, either through unpaid internships or through a lend-lease program to make equipment available to schools for vocational training. He noted that businesses, on average, turn over their equipment every five years, while schools keep equipment for 15 years.

“The Governor was very positive about lending the power of his office for the support of education,” said William L. Phillis, assistant superintendent of the state department of education. “We have no real front-burner items right now. Most will be included in the budget bill next year.”

A state senator from Dayton has proposed legislation to invalidate a state athletic-association rule barring from interscholastic competition any student who competes in a league outside school. Soccer, volleyball, and hockey are the sports most affected by the rule, which the Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted to prevent pressure on youngsters to specialize in one sport at an early age. But soccer enthusiasts, in particular, argue that the rule restricts students’ opportunity to develop their ability fully.


Gov. Charles S. Robb, in a turnabout from his previous practice of requesting cutbacks, asked the legislature for a 24-percent increase in funds for public schools over the next two years.

Governor Robb called for a 20-percent increase in teachers’ salaries and an increase in the state’s per-pupil expenditure from $1,426 to $1,605.

If approved, basic state aid to schools will be $755 million the first year and $822 million the second year of the biennium, an increase of about $200 million from fiscal 1984.

Governor Robb also proposed funding for a new center to improve teaching techniques and for four magnet schools. And he asked for a 22-percent increase in support for state universities and colleges, including $100 million in construction funds that had previously been frozen.

The Governor’s $15.7-billion budget for 1984-86--$2 billion higher than the last one--calls for paying for the increases by delaying tax breaks for businesses, rather than by instituting a tax increase.

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1984 edition of Education Week as Governors Seek Education Reforms, Spending Increases for Schools