Legislature News Roundup

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Public-education officials in Ohio were pleased two weeks ago when Gov. James A. Rhodes proposed that a temporary 40-percent surcharge be tacked onto the state income tax instead of the 25-percent surcharge approved by the state Senate.

But within a few days, the Governor's office of budget and management revised its revenue forecast, predicting a shortfall of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, rather than the $1 billion that had been projected.

As a result, the state's residents may be paying more and the schools receiving less.

"There will probably be more cuts for education," said Irene G. Bandy, executive director of administration in the state education department.

The Governor has proposed spending cuts similar to those approved by the Senate--in general aid to school districts, categorical programs, and nutrition.

Twenty-one of the state's 615 school districts have already received emergency loans from the state. Fifteen more applied this month, Ms. Bandy said, and several others "are in various stages of the process.''

Governor Rhodes's proposed tax increase and spending cuts are in hearings before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is expected to take action this week. If the House approves the measure, it will go to a House-Senate conference committee, where the differences must be worked out by next month.

The Arizona Senate has passed a bill to raise the mandatory level of education to two years of high school. At present, students in both public and private schools must remain in school until the eighth grade or until age 16.

Gov. Bruce E. Babbitt is now considering the bill changing the mandatory-attendance requirement.

The Senate also approved a bill that would allow parents to teach their children at home without the permission of school-district officials.

However, the Senate amended the bill to require annual testing of children taught at home and to require parents to pass the same tests in reading, mathematics, and grammar that public-school teachers in the state must pass, and the House has not yet concurred.

A proposed constitutional amendment in Colorado that would reduce the assessment of residential property for tax purposes was passed by the legislature last week and will next be considered in November by the state's voters.

The measure, which would allow assessment of residential property at 22 percent of market value (compared to 30 percent for commercial property) is intended to ease the impact on individual homeowners of a property-tax hike scheduled for 1983.

A bill that would remove a cap on the state's $620-million equalization fund (which currently pays about 51 percent of the school costs in the state) was passed on the final day of the session last week. It awaits the governor's signature.

The battle of the education budget continues in New York.

First, Gov. Hugh L. Carey in February proposed that state aid to school districts be increased by $742 million, to nearly $5 billion. He proposed to raise the new funds with a 1-percent increase in the state's sales tax.

Earlier this month, the legislature rejected the Governor's plan, killing the sales-tax increase, paring the school-district aid increase to $310 million, and restoring state aid to 60 wealthy districts that would have lost it under the Carey proposal.

Not to be outdone, the Governor has now vetoed the legislature's education budget, substituting for it a new plan of his own that would reduce the increase in state aid to school districts to $238 million.

Governor Carey has abandoned the sales-tax scheme in his latest plan, but he now proposes to reduce state aid to the state's 166 wealthiest districts by $11.5 million. The legislature's proposal would cut state aid to 50 wealthy districts by $2.54 million.

The Governor met last week with legislative leaders to discuss the issue. But sources in the legislature could not say when a compromise might be reached or whether the legislature will try to override Mr. Carey's veto.

Meanwhile, the state's 712 school districts have been paying $400,000 per day since April 15 in interest on commercial loans they have had to take out because the conflict over the budget has deprived them of aid payments from the state.

A similar budget battle last year delayed the signing of a budget 42 days past the April 15 deadline and cost school districts $11 million, according to Stanley L. Raub, executive director of the state's school- boards association.

Recent "trim-and-tax" actions taken by the Washington legislature to correct a $500-million budget deficit have resulted in the cancellation of the 6.8-percent average salary increase last year's legislature awarded to Washington teachers and other school employees for the 1982-1983 fiscal year.

In addition to eliminating raises, the final package, approved on April 10, includes a 1-percent slash in the state's basic apportionment for public schools. Districts may elect to take the cuts in salary and benefit increases; pupil transportation; education of the handicapped; vocational-technical institutions; state block grants; or food services.

While the Washington Education Association "deplores imposing this kind of occupational tax on public employees," a spokesman said, representatives of the 40,000-member association agreed with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Frank Brouillet that public schools will suffer "minimal damage" from the $55.6-million total cuts in basic-education funds imposed by the legislature this session.

Gov. John Spellman had warned the legislature that he would be forced to make cuts of 9.8 percent in public-school support if lawmakers could not come up with a tax and spending package to keep the state out of debt. The governor's proposal would have meant a loss of $156 million.

The salary freeze will mean, however, that one-quarter of Washington's teachers will not have had a raise in three years, said Reese Lindquist, president of the wea

Residents of Vermont will be paying a higher sales tax and will forgo a planned cut in income taxes in order to raise and to equalize funds for school districts.

Gov. Richard Snelling last week signed into law a new formula for determining the relative wealth of a community, which now takes into consideration the income of its residents. Previously, state aid to schools was based solely on local property values.

Representative Gretchen Morse, chairman of the House education committee, speculated that the legislature can now turn its attention to the quality of Vermont's schools. Debate over education finance has been running for over a decade in Montpelier.

Vol. 01, Issue 31

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