States News Roundup
Michigan's public schools may lose half of the current fiscal year's final state-aid payment in the latest round of state budget cuts.
Gov. William Milliken recommended last month that another $150 million be cut from the budget for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, bringing the total cuts this year to $750 million out of a total budget of about $4.5 billion.
Late last week, the Governor was negotiating with leaders of the legislature, whose appropriations committees must approve any budget-cutting order, but education officials said they could not predict the outcome. Because of the late timing of the new round of cuts--Michigan's fourth since last fall, all owing to the state's lagging economy--Governor Milliken said his choices were limited.
He has recommended that state aid to elementary and secondary education be trimmed by about $70 million, a move that would wipe out half of the $144-million aid payment that was due to be made to school districts on Aug. 1 but has twice been deferred because of the state's financial difficulties. Both general aid and catgorical programs would be affected under the Milliken plan.
"The effects will vary from district to district," depending on how much aid a district receives, said Robert N. McKerr, associate state superintendent. "Some districts will end up owing the state money. We'll have to make adjustments next fiscal year to recover it." The typical Michigan district this year received about 32 percent of its revenue from state sources, but the proportion varies according to local revenue-raising capacity.
"We hear from individual districts, 'My gosh, we can't meet payroll,"' Mr. McKerr added. Some are truly going to be in need in terms of meeting payroll or borrowing."
Because they receive no revenues from local property taxes until January, Mr. McKerr explained, Michigan districts commonly borrow from private lending institutions in August or September, using anticipated state and local revenue as collateral.
Surprisingly, Mr. McKerr said, districts appear to be having less difficulty obtaining loans this year than last year, despite the state's poor credit rating.
Furthermore, the state's "critical list" of districts that have failed to win voters' approval of local continuation levies or new millages "has been whittled down," he said. At one time, 33 school districts were considered to be in critical financial condition; after several elections last week, the number was down to 15.
North Carolina's high-school students apparently will not face a test of their writing ability in the near future because a state commission has decided that the public schools have not prepared them for the test.
Currently, students must pass a multiple-choice test, covering reading and mathematics, to receive a regular high-school diploma.
Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., among others, has pushed for the inclusion of a section that would test students' writing ability.
But the state competency-testing commission voted last month to delay the change until the 1983-84 school year, at the earliest, because it would not be fair to test students in an area where their instruction had been scanty.
"The majority of students have never been taught how to write--how to take an idea, put it on paper, and express themselves clearly to others," said Jay Robinson, superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools and a member of the commission.
"Unless you're willing to teach them writing, I'm not willing to stick a competency test between them and a diploma," he added.
The commission's plan calls for state requirements for the teaching of writing, including standards for teacher training, diagnostic testing, and special classes for students who are having difficulty.
The proposed writing test would require students to write a paragraph taking a position on and supporting a specified issue and to write a telephone message that accurately conveys a caller's remarks. In a field test earlier this year, about 14 percent of 1,000 students failed the test.
Illinois school districts are gearing up to begin classes this year with $35 million less in general state aid than they had last year.
Gov. James R. Thompson last month reduced state appropriations to elementary and secondary schools by $49.8 million, bringing state support to the $2.1-billion level he sought in his budget proposal last March.
If the general assembly, which passed the budget earlier this summer, sustains the Governor's veto, it will mean that schools will receive 1.7 percent less state funding than they did in 1981.
The education reductions--including about $12 million from higher education--were part of $289 million the Governor sliced from appropriations measures in an effort to balance the state's $14.2-billion budget.
Governor Thompson said the education cuts were necessary because the legislature had failed to pass a proposed increase in liquor taxes. The increase would have brought more funds to schools and mental-health services.
The general assembly will return after the November election to act on the Governor's veto, but legis-lative leaders and education officials said the outlook for overturning the Governor's veto is grim.
The Maryland State Board of Education has agreed to assume complete regulatory control of private day-care centers in the state, a change that will eliminate the need for some centers to seek certification from two state agencies.
Prior to the state board's decision, more than 50 private day-care operators were required to hold a license issued by the state department of health and mental hygiene in addition to a certificate of approval from the state department of education. The dual licensing was required for centers that provided services before and after school hours.
Under the new regulations, which will take effect during the 1982-1983 school year, the department of education will be solely responsible for all private day-care centers regardless of the hours of operation, according to Adolphus L. Spain, chief of the state's nonpublic schools accreditation branch. The change will affect about 56 private centers previously licensed by the health department.
The West Virginia State Board of Education has placed the development of a test for prospective teachers among its top priorities.
Students would be tested on the "basic skills" necessary for teaching when they entered a teacher-training program and again before graduation, according to a budget request by the state board.
The state board is asking the legislature for $310,000 over a three-year period to pay for development of the tests.
Teachers currently employed would not be tested.
Vol. 01, Issue 42