State News Roundup

October 02, 1991 2 min read

Gov. Cecil D. Andrus of Idaho has unveiled a five-point school-reform plan that, he says, can be funded with money saved by across-the-board budget cuts.

Mr. Andrus toured the state last month to drum up support for his proposal, dubbed “Strong Start: Five Keys to Excellence.”

The plan emphasizes decentralized decisionmaking, integrating existing social-service programs into the schools, expanding parental involvement, improving access to educational technology, and developing before- and after-school programs for children of working parents.

Mr. Andrus said part of his strategy for implementing reform would be to award competitive three-year grants to selected “centers of excellence” proposed by each of the state’s 113 school districts.

The Governor has already asked the heads of state departments to cut their budgets by 3 percent before submitting funding requests for the next fiscal year. The money saved, he suggests, could be used to fund the pilot education programs.

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin has indicated he will call the legislature into special session this month to consider school-improvement proposals.

Mr. Thompson wants lawmakers to consider 40 of the scores of recommendations made last year by a state-level commission, according to a spokesman.

In its report last December, the Commission on Schools for the 21st Century called for kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds, an expansion of the state’s private-school-choice plan for Milwaukee, an end to that city’s busing program for desegregation, and other controversial and costly proposals. (See Education Week, Dec. 5, 1990.)

The Governor included only a handfull of those measures, however, in his budget proposal last January. If Mr. Thompson follows through on his intention to call the special session, the spokesman said, .it would take place concurrent with the legislature’s regularly planned session, which is scheduled to begin this week.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court last week ordered a lawsuit challenging the state’s new school-finance law to be heard in trial court.

The decision was a setback to the Education Law Center, which had pushed for a quick ruling by the high court declaring the embattled Quality Education Act unconstitutional. The suit contends that the state’s $750-million boost in education aid does not go far enough to remedy inequalities between rich and poor school districts.

But the supreme court said disagreements over facts and the need to create a full record of the law’s impact should be handled by a trial court. Only if the decision by Superior Court Judge Paul T. Levy is appealed would the case go before the supreme court.

A coalition of 38 low-wealth school districts in Virginia has decided to wait until after the legislature acts on education funding next year before mounting a formal legal challenge to the state’s school-finance system.

Kenneth E. Walker, superintendent of the Halifax County schools and chairman of the Coalition for Equity in Educational Funding, said the coalition is seeking more money for poor districts without reducing the amount rich systems receive.

The state board ofeducation’s proposed budget for 1992-93 contains only “stepgap” measures and not the structural changes in the schoolfunding mechanism sought by the coalition, Mr. Walker argued. He added, however, that coalition members remain hopeful that the General Assembly will address their concerns.

A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 1991 edition of Education Week as State News Roundup