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State Journal: Printout wars; No long lines

February 05, 1992 2 min read

School-finance proposals by two Midwestern Governors are running into opposition spurred by one of the most powerful tools of modern lobbying--the computer printout.

In Kansas, Gov. Joan Finney last month proposed a major restructuring of the school-funding system under which the state would collect and distribute school revenues, while also setting a statewide cap on school budgets and property taxes.

Number-crunching revealed that most school districts and taxpayers would enjoy increases in state aid and reductions in property taxes as a result.

Release of printouts showing that some districts would receive substantial cuts in state aid, however, was enough to evoke a chorus of dismay from their legislators.

In Iowa, meanwhile, Gov. Terry E. Branstad is trying to save $37 million by changing the state’s complex school-aid formula.

One of the proposed changes would immediately eliminate so called “phantom students,” who are allowed to be counted to help rural school systems with falling enrollments.

Release of computer data on the negative impact of Mr. Branstad’s plan on rural schools quickly generated sharp criticism from key lawmakers.

While acknowledging that the printouts were stirring up initial opposition, though, Mr. Branstad’s education adviser defended them as an essential part of modern legislation.

“The printouts have to be there,” Phil Dunshee said. “How can you say that legislators shouldn’t have full information about the impact of their decisions?”

After only a month in office, Gov. Kirk Fordice of Mississippi is already riffling state educators.

Strains between Mr. Fordice and the education community first became apparent when he vowed to oppose efforts to restore $30 million cut from state school aid last year, which school districts say they desperately need.

Mr. Fordice also raised eyebrows when he promised to “call out the National Guard” to oppose a possible order by the U.S. Supreme Court to raise taxes to increase spending at predominately black state universities. He later backed away from the statement, however.

Tensions may have come to a head when teachers demonstrating at the state capitol last month reportedly had a hostile confrontation with Mr. Fordice’s staff.

At about the same time, the Governor was making a speech challenging education groups’ claims of public support.

“I know how Mississippians feel,” he told the state P.T.A. “They are not in a long line saying, ‘Let’s put more money in education.’” --H.D.

A version of this article appeared in the February 05, 1992 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Printout wars; No long lines