Legislatures News Roundup

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Gov. Hugh L. Carey of New York has proposed increasing state aid to schools by $740 million next year, as part of a five-year plan to increase the state's share of support for education from 40 percent to 50 percent.

The Governor's legislative package for education, which represents an increase of nearly 18 percent over the current $4.2 billion in state aid, also includes adjustments to the aid formula, which are intended to direct more state money to the districts with the greatest needs.

The proposed changes would allocate more money for urban districts that have heavy financial obligations for social services; for sparsely populated rural districts; for students who are gifted, who are behind in "basic skills," and whose proficiency in English is limited; and for summer-school programs. At least 20 districts, however, would lose some state aid under the plan, according to Leonard Stavisky, chairman of the Assembly education committee.

The Governor's request addresses many of the issues raised in Levittown v. Nyquist, the lawsuit charging that the state's current school-finance system is inequitable. Three lower state courts have found the finance methods unconstitutional; the case is on appeal to the state's highest court.

Governor Carey has asked the legislature to finance his education package with an increase in sales taxes--a move that may meet some opposition, Mr. Stavisky said, because it is considered more regressive than taxes on in-come and businesses.

A bill that would have created a scholarship-grant program for future teachers has been killed by the higher-education committee of the Florida House of Representatives, mostly because the legislature is already short of funds for student-financial-aid programs, an aide to the committee said.

The legislation, which had been praised by educators as a good way to attract high-quality students into the teaching profession, would have provided loans of an undetermined amount to education-school students. The students could have erased their debt by remaining in the state to teach; each year of teaching would have, in effect, "paid back" the state for one year of financial aid.

A bill that would have given parents more responsibility for what is taught in Washington State's sex-education classes has died in the Senate education committee. The chairman of the committee, Senator William Kiskaddon, said the bill died for lack of interest among the nine committee members, who are concentrating during this session on the budget, changes in financing school transportation, and private-school accreditation.

The author of the bill, Senator Margaret Hurley of Spokane, accused Mr. Kiskaddon of backing away from the bill because "he doesn't like it and it was maligned in the papers all over the state and in Idaho. I think what everyone thinks is [that] it's a foot in the door to prevent sex education in the schools. That's silly."

The bill would have set up uniform guidelines for districts offering sex-education classes. "There is not a single word in that bill that would allow parents to change the curriculum," said Ms. Hurley.

Two of the major initiatives in Mississippi Gov. William Winter's educational reform package have failed to pass the legislature, but the governor plans to try again in the next session of the legislature, according to David Crews, a spokesman for the governor.

The House of Representatives, by refusing to suspend its rules to consider the bill, killed a measure that would have established state-sponsored kindergartens--the subject of considerable controversy in Mississippi.

Both the kindergarten proposal and a measure that would have toughened the compulsory-attendance law had the support of Mississippi educators. Legislators, however, were wary of incurring further expenses for the state, despite the fact that the governor proposed paying for the measures through a third piece of legislation that would create a state trust fund for education by raising the state's oil and gas severance taxes.

As of last week, that bill was still alive. "The key to all this is the trust fund," Mr. Crews said. He said that the governor is hopeful that the bill will be passed by the legislature by the March 4 deadline. If the trust-fund measure passes, Mr. Crews added, it will be three years before it yields enough to pay for kindergartens.

Vol. 01, Issue 22

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