McWherter Will Run for Second Term To Continue Drive for School Reform

January 31, 1990 7 min read

By Ann Bradley

Gov. Ned McWherter of Tennessee said last week that he intends to seek a second term in office to oversee “the promise of real education reform” in the state.

In his State of the State Address, the Governor told lawmakers that overhauling the state’s education system will be a dominant legislative issue throughout the decade.

“We must make sure that every school system can provide textbooks, computers, and teachers who make a competitive salary,” the Governor said. “We must give local superintendents and school boards the flexibility they need to run their schools.”

In return, Mr. McWherter added, school systems must be “held accountable for the choices they make and the quality of education they produce.”

In his address, the Governor noted that Tennessee schools made “substantial progress” during the past decade. He cited a 41 percent increase in the number of students taking algebra and science; a 96 percent increase in the number taking advanced mathematics; a 143 percent increase in the number studying foreign languages; and a 158 percent increase in the number enrolled in world-history courses.

Proposed State Goals

Charles E. Smith, the state education commissioner, is expected next month to submit to a legislative committee a proposal to set statewide education goals and objectives. The plan would be introduced as legislation next year.

If adopted, the proposals would “shift the emphasis from procedures to outcomes,” Mr. Smith has said.

Among the goals listed in a draft of the report are preparing children to enter 1st grade; reducing the size of primary-grade classes; developing a new funding formula that would provide each school district with a base level of financial support; the creation of a statewide assessment program; and increasing teachers’ involvement in decisionmaking.

Deregulation Plan

As a prelude to such changes, Governor McWherter last week unveiled legislation to allow as many as eight school systems to request waivers from state regulations for three years in an effort to improve student performance.

In announcing his support for the legislation, the Governor said he believes Tennessee schools are “overruled, overregulated, and overgoverned,” and need to move toward a system of school-based management that will give school districts the flexibility to meet their students’ needs.

In exchange for the waivers, the state would monitor student test scores and graduation rates in each district.

The school districts’ improvement plans would have to be approved by the state education commissioner before waivers could be granted.

The Governor also is supporting proposed legislation that would deny driver’s licenses to students under age 18 who drop out of school.

South Carolina

Campbell: $200 Million For School Construction

In a State of the State Address that focused on rebuilding from the devastation left by Hurricane Hugo, Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. urged the South Carolina legislature to approve proposals to fund $200 million in new school construction.

The state suffered $6 billion in damages from the September natural disaster, Mr. Campbell said. State education officials have estimated a total of $78 million in costs to schools as a result of the storm, including damages to buildings and equipment.

Even before Hugo, officials had indicated that about $1.4 billion was needed to meet all of the state’s school-construction needs.

In his Jan. 17 speech, Mr. Campbell proposed that counties be able to increase their bond-debt limit from 8 percent to 12 percent. The legislature rejected such a proposal last year, however.

The Governor also proposed that the state be allowed to “package” public-school construction bonds for multiple districts, thus making it possible for districts to benefit from the state’s high bond rating.

Under the plan, the state would use $10 million from the 1-cent sales tax targeted to fund the 1984 Education Improvement Act to cover half the cost of servicing the bonds, with districts being responsible for the rest.

In addition, the Governor called on the legislature to adopt an expanded teacher-scholarship program for outstanding high-school students. The program would give at least 200 students who had graduated in the top 10 percent of their class grants of up to $5,000 a year if they agreed to teach in a state public school for at least five years after completing college.

Mr. Campbell targeted $1 million in eia money to pay for the program.

The Governor also said that the proposed state budget, which was prepared by a panel that included himself and members of the executive and legislative branches, represents “responsible stewardship.” The budget includes a 3.6 percent increase for precollegiate education.

But prospects for education funding could improve, he said, because revenues from the penny sales tax for the eia “is growing faster than anything else.”

The budget does not include any new money for buying school buses or textbooks. It also does not fully fund an education-improvement law adopted last year that was financed through mostly one-time funds. Mr. Campbell recommended that any surpluses above projected revenues be used to fund the programs.--ef

New Mexico

Carruthers Backs Pay For Teacher Home Visits

New Mexico teachers who make home visits after school should receive extra pay, Gov. Garry E. Carruthers has proposed.

The home-visit program--which would provide $2.8 million to allow up to 10 extra contract days to encourage teachers to visit parents of their students--was one of a wide range of education proposals included in Mr. Carruthers’s Jan. 16 State of the State Address.

Noticeably absent from the Governor’s speech and budget proposal, however, was a call for raising taxes to fund a pay raise for teachers and other state employees.

The state board of education has recommended a budget with a 7.1 percent pay increase for teachers. State teachers’ unions want an increase of about 10 percent.

In his speech, Mr. Carruthers said he supports a pay increase, but noted that the state would have to increase taxes to provide the funding for it.

Last week, the Governor announced that he would submit a plan to the legislature by this week detailing his proposals for a tax increase and pay raise.

Governor Carruthers, who under state law cannot run for re-election this year, outlined several other education programs in his address to legislators.

His budget includes $175,000 for his “enrollment options” program, which would provide transportation assistance to low-income families to attend a school of their choice.

He also requested $6 million for districts willing to experiment with a 200-day school year.

Mr. Carruthers proposed $2.4 million to implement class-size reductions at the kindergarten level, which were mandated by the 1986 school-reform law. In addition, he called for $6 million to buy more school computers and $2 million for remediation programs for at-risk students.--mw


Harris Proposes Drug-Education Efforts

While acknowledging the fiscal constraints created by a “sluggish economy,” Gov. Joe Frank Harris of Georgia proposed several new drug-education programs in his State of the State Address.

The Governor proposed legislation mandating drug education in grades K-12; a student-assistance program aimed at identifying those with drug problems; implementation of a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (dare) program; and placement of full-time drug coordinators in all of the state’s regional education-service agencies.

Mr. Harris also proposed a 3 percent pay raise for teachers and a slight increase in state aid to school districts. Both of these recommendations are mandated under the Quality Basic Education Act, the school-reform law passed by the legislature in 1985.

Mr. Harris stressed, however, that “the upcoming budget is a tight one.” Over all, his budget request for fiscal 1991, $7.8 billion, is only about $300 million more than his 1990 request.

“My recommendations impose an austerity-level funding on all continuation spending,” the Governor said in his Jan. 10 address. “This means the delayed hiring of new employees” and reduced expenses in many areas, he added.

In keeping with the state’s tight fiscal situation, the drug-education measures put forward by Mr. Harris would involve relatively modest spending levels. The Governor estimated that the student-assistance program would cost $540,000 in its first year, while implementation of the dare program would cost about $166,000.

Other proposals aimed at curbing drug abuse among young people would be funded through the department of human resources, he said. These include $5.3 million for a additional beds for residential-treatment facilities; $1.4 million for outpatient drug treatment for youths; and $1.3 million for family-support programs.--mn

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 1990 edition of Education Week as McWherter Will Run for Second Term To Continue Drive for School Reform