States News Roundup
Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio last week ordered a $190-million cut in state aid to elementary and secondary schools to help balance the state's fiscal 1983 budget, which has a deficit projected at $528 million.
Together with a $40-million cut in state support for colleges and universities, the reductions for education represent more than 81 percent of the $282 million trimmed by the Governor's executive order.
"It grieved him that so much of this came out of education," said a spokesman. "But he has only five months to balance the budget. Between now and then, there is virtually nothing that can be done to curtail Medicaid costs," which have exceeded projections by $149 million.
School districts will have until the end of the current fiscal year to absorb cuts in general aid averaging about 18 percent, according to the state department of education. Categorical programs will be cut by 10 percent.
With the new cuts, the $757-million increase appropriated in the current biennium has dwindled to $350 million. State and local officials, noting that many districts have no contracts with employees, predicted that many districts will be forced to attempt local property-tax increases or to tap the state's emergency school-loan fund.
Cleveland's superintendent, Frederick D. Holliday, immediately ordered his subordinates to devise plans for cutting expenses by 10, 15, or 20 percent, anticipating further cuts in the next biennium.
The Governor also last week asked the legislature to close the budget gap and create a small contingency fund by increasing and extending a "temporary" surcharge on income taxes enacted last year and by raising the tax on utility companies.
An Illinois circuit judge has blocked Gov. James R. Thompson's plan to cut $159 million from the state's fiscal 1983 budget, a move that would have reduced state aid to elementary and secondary schools by $42 million.
Judge Albert S. Porter of Cook County Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction preventing Governor Thompson from taking action under the Emergency Budget Act, which the General Assembly passed last year to give him one-time emergency authority to cut as much as 2 percent of this year's budget.
The judge ruled that the state legislature unconstitutionally relinquished its budget-making authority when it passed the emergency act. The Governor has said he will appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, State Superintendent Donald G. Gill has proposed a $2.1-billion budget for fiscal 1984, an increase of $98 million but still less than the "full resource needs" for the state's 1,009 school districts.
Mr. Gill said those needs call for an increase of $154 million over current-year spending, but suggested his proposal represented a more realistic goal in view of the state's troubled economy.
Mr. Gill's budget seeks $1.4 billion in general state aid, an increase of $53 million or about 4 percent over this year's spending.
Spending for programs mandated by law and other categorical programs would increase $34.7 million to $387.2 million.
Thirty-three high-school students were arrested by police in Anne Arundel County, Md., last week following a seven-month undercover investigation of drug dealing at three area high schools.
Police also arrested 14 adults from communities near the schools. It was the largest school drug raid in Anne Arundel history, police said.
Seventeen of the students were arrested at Meade Senior High School, which is located on the grounds of Fort Meade, an Army base.
The students--who came mostly from middle- and upper-middle-class families--were charged with distributing cocaine, hashish, lsd, and other drugs. They were released in the custody of their parents pending court appearances.
They also face expulsion from school, authorities said, and will be required to attend drug counseling sessions with their parents before being readmitted.
Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas has signed into law a "30 and out" teacher-retirement plan that will cost the state somewhere between $3.5 million and $5 million per year.
The law will permit public-school teachers to retire with full benefits after 30 years of service, instead of after 35 years, as was formerly required.
The law does not have a requirement regarding a minimum retirement age. As a result, a teacher who has 30 years' experience before age 55, for example, will be eligible to retire at that age.
The Gideon Society has agreed to stop distributing Bibles in Illinois public schools, following a state legal advisor's opinion that the practice was illegal.
David A. Thompson, assistant legal advisor to the Illinois State Board of Education, said the state received complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union about Bible giveaways during school hours, primarily in the southeastern portion of the state.
"The question had come up before," he said. "They've been doing it for more than 20 years, according to one of the superintendents."
Basing its opinion on the U.S. and Illinois constitutions, the legal office advised school districts late last year not to permit the distribution.
"We said that if they [the Gideons] want to stand across the street and distribute Bibles to children as they walk by, that's their privilege," Mr. Thompson said. "Our objection was to the use of school property during school hours, which we felt violated the Establishment Clause."
Mr. Thompson said the Gideons announced this month that they would cease the practice.
Vol. 02, Issue 20