State Capitols

March 11, 1987 7 min read

Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois has proposed a $22.1-billion state budget that includes more than $1 billion in tax increases and a $200-million boost in funding for public schools.

Overall, elementary and secondary education would receive $3.6- billion, a 6 percent increase over this year’s spending level. Higher education would receive $1.9 billion, an increase of $100 million for fiscal 1988.

The Governor acknowledged that education leaders would find his budget inadequate. But, he said, “I think $200 million is pretty good when the choice is between that and zero.’'

Mr. Thompson’s recommendations represent only two-thirds of the amount of new dollars that had been sought by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Major features of the Governor’s school budget include:

  • $74.7 million--up from $12.7- million this year--for preschool-education programs for academically “at risk’’ 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • An increase of $92 million in general state aid--a 5.1 percent boost over the $1.8-billion appropriation in fiscal 1987.
  • $28 million more for summer-school programs for truants and dropouts, up from $10 million earmarked for such efforts this year.
  • $7.2 million, which represents a doubling of this year’s appropriation, for the state’s mathematics-science academy for gifted high-school students. The academy was a major feature of the Governor’s school-reform agenda two years ago.

Mr. Thompson has also asked for a $520-million income-tax increase and another $233 million in revenues from expanding the sales tax to include computer software, non-prescription drugs, and certain services. Other tax increases have been proposed for transportation and other building programs.--DON SEVENER

Calling on state lawmakers to put “our money where our kids are,’' Gov. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania has recommended an increase of about $214 million in state funding for elementary and secondary schools for the 1988 fiscal year.

In his first State of the State Message and budget address, the newly elected Democrat focused much of his attention on economic development.

As part of his program to “stimulate economic growth and opportunity,’' Mr. Casey recommended that the General Assembly earmark about $3.98 billion for precollegiate education, up 5.8 percent over last year’s $3.76-billion school-aid appropriation. Mr. Casey proposed a total state budget of $10.2 billion for fiscal 1988.

The proposed $214-million increase would come from an anticipated surplus in this year’s budget, Mr. Casey told lawmakers.

The Governor’s education budget includes a $7-million program to assist teachers in reaching “their own highest potential’’ through school-based teacher training, internships outside the school, and scholarships for continuing education.

Mr. Casey also asked the General Assembly to approve $500,000 for an experimental dropout-prevention program; $5 million for adult-literacy programs; $28.2 million for day-care services; and $381 million for vocational education.--E.F.

Gov. Edward D. DiPrete of Rhode Island, calling education his top priority for 1987, has requested a 9 percent increase in funding for precollegiate education.

The $24-million increase would bring total funding to $301 million, including $288 million in state aid to districts. The Governor proposed a total state budget of $1.19 billion for fiscal 1988 late last month.

The budget includes two new initiatives aimed at curbing illiteracy and reducing the dropout rate. One, originally proposed by J. Troy Earhart, state commissioner of education, would provide funds for instruction in basic skills for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade, as well as remedial instruction for those who have not attained basic levels of literacy. To finance the program, Governor DiPrete requested that school districts set aside 3 percent of their state operational aid, rising to 5 percent by 1991.

A second initiative would provide $4 million for a variety of programs, including $1 million for the proposed dropout-prevention program, $1 million for textbooks, $500,000 for incentive awards to schools for student achievement, $250,000 for recognition of outstanding student achievement, and $100,000 for a training program for school-committee members and administrators.

The proposed fund would also include $300,000 to carry out the recommendations of a task force appointed by the Governor to implement reforms proposed by the National Governors’ Association in its 1986 report, Time for Results.

“Through these efforts,’' Governor DiPrete said, “I expect the development of programs of lasting worth, that will indeed forever change the path of life for youngsters who otherwise would have ‘fallen through the cracks,’ so to speak, and will elevate ‘average’ performances to achievements of distinction.’'--R.R.

Faced with continuing shortfalls in state revenues and a growing anti-tax sentiment in their state, Utah lawmakers imposed a number of belt-tightening measures on school districts last month before ending their 1987 session.

Measures adopted by the legislature this session will:

  • Force the closing of schools that are not filled to 70 percent of their capacity in September. School boards that keep such schools open will lose state funds used to defray liability-insurance and utility costs. The passage of the bill has already prompted Salt Lake City school officials to schedule one high school for closing, according to state education officials.
  • Prohibit construction of schools unless local officials can demonstrate that other alternatives to ease overcrowding--such as extended-day sessions or year-round schooling--were tried first.
  • Bar school districts from spending funds for extracurricular activities until they can show that needs for textbooks and school supplies are being met.

“We’ve put a great deal of emphasis against bricks and mortar and more into the classrooms,’' said State Senator Haven J. Barlow, chairman of the Senate Public Education and Appropriations Committee.

The Republican-dominated legislature also shaved more than $32 million from the $674.8-million precollegiate-education budget proposed in January by the Republican Governor, Norman H. Bangerter. The legislature appropriated $641.9 million for state aid to schools--a 2.7 percent increase over current spending.

Most of the funds cut from the Governor’s budget plan would have been used to increase teacher salaries across the state, Senator Barlow said.

“The appropriation is not enough to account for growth,’' warned Douglas Bates, administrative assistant for governmental relations in the state’s office of education. “Our budget really got hammered this year.’'

At the same time, however, the legislature defeated numerous calls to eliminate the state’s three-year-old career-ladder program for teachers. Likewise, a controversial proposal to reduce the legal age for dropping out of school from 18 to 16 also failed.

In addition, the lawmakers drastically reduced a record-high tax increase proposed by the Governor, from $206 million in new revenues to $151.2 million. The funds will be collected through new sales, cigarette, and gasoline taxes, as well as from the state’s anticipated “windfall’’ from changes in the federal tax code, Mr. Barlow said.--D.V.

Virginia lawmakers have passed a measure asking voters to decide whether the state should adopt a lottery to help supplement its tax revenues.

In another vote during the closing hours of the General Assembly’s 46-day 1987 session, lawmakers late last month narrowly defeated a bill that would have required school officials to tell parents when they suspected students of drug or alcohol abuse.

The House and the Senate approved the lottery bill on Feb. 28 after it was amended to prohibit advertising “enticing’’ citizens to play the game, according to a spokesman for Gov. Gerald L. Baliles. The amendment was intended to mollify critics who have argued that lotteries draw revenue disproportionately from the poor and the disadvantaged. (See Education Week, March 4, 1987.)

Proceeds from the lottery would not be earmarked for education, as in several other states, said Christine Bridge, the Governor’s press secretary. Instead, the funds would be placed directly in the state’s general-fund budget.

In other action, the legislature:

  • Approved Governor Baliles’s proposal to return to taxpayers nearly all of the state’s estimated $174-million “windfall’ resulting from changes in the federal tax code. Lawmakers agreed to hold $28 million in reserve in case receipts fall short of the estimate.

  • Added $282,000 to the $3.5-billion biennial school-aid budget adopted last year, to be used for foreign-language academies for high-school students and for a joint effort with the National Geographic Society to improve geography instruction.--T.M.

A version of this article appeared in the March 11, 1987 edition of Education Week as State Capitols