States News Roundup
A temporary tax increase, proposed last week by Ohio Governor James Rhodes to raise $1 billion for education, would increase the state contribution to public schools by some 20 percent, but Ohio would still lag behind the national average in per-pupil expenditures.
Ohio now spends just over $2,000 per pupil--some $250 less than the national average. The new state revenue, if distributed evenly, would add less than $200 per pupil, said Roger Lulow, assistant superintendent of the State Department of Education.
"In a state such as Ohio, which has more urban areas than any other except California, that certainly isn't excessive," Mr. Lulow said.
Governor Rhodes' proposal, which includes raising the state sales tax by 1 percent through June, 1983, was presented to the legislature last week, but no action is expected until October.
The plan was welcomed by educators, but a statewide human-services coalition has called for a greater increase to meet "basic human needs."
Meanwhile, nearly one-third of the state's 615 school districts have announced their intention to request local tax increases in November.
The millions of dollars spent on education in Arizona is "sloppily administered, poorly accounted for, and possibly diverted in massive amounts," charges a report by the Arizona Tax Research Association.
In School Management: A Financial Dereliction, Michael T. Martin, a research analyst for the association, asserts that most state school districts are not in compliance with the 1974 Arizona law that requires districts to keep uniform financial records--a conclusion with which state education officials strongly disagree.
Mr. Martin, using audits compiled by the state's auditor general, catalogued deficiencies in six areas, including basic bookkeeping requirements, tracking of inventories, and prenumbering, entering, and balancing of checks.
Under state law, the auditor general audits small districts at least once every three years and large ones every year. If he finds a deficiency, the district has 90 days to comply with the state's procedures. If problems persist, the case goes before the State Board of Education.
If the Board agrees with the auditor general, it schedules a hearing at which the district must show progress toward compliance or face a loss of state funds.
So far, only the Paradise Valley school district, which includes part of Phoenix, has gone that far in the auditing process. It could lose up to $28 million if it does not show progress. But a fund cutoff is unlikely, school officials say, because the abuses occurred under a previous administration, and the new superintendent's job depends on bringing the district into compliance.
But Mr. Martin said Paradise Valley is typical of districts that say the problems identified in the state audit have been rectified, only to have the same errors appear in the next audit.
"The problem," he added, "is that educators as a rule are interested in education and little else. I would venture to say that this is not an uncommon problem."
Dave J. Bolger, assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction, countered that the report "is tarring 222 districts with an incredibly wide brush."
"There are 222 school districts in the state, and he lists 26 districts as having 'deficiencies,"' Mr. Bolger said. "Twenty-six out of 222 is 12 percent. From that he concludes that money is 'possibly diverted in massive amounts."'
State officials do agree that sloppy management can be a problem in schools, and the state board may impose additional educational and training requirements for school business officials later this year.