State Education Issues

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The Indiana legislature, having wiped out its fiscal 1983 deficit by raising the sales tax by one cent during a special session in December, has turned its attention in the regular session to a $12-million package of school initiatives set forth by Gov. Robert D. Orr and Harold Negley, state superintendent of public instruction.

Three-quarters of the new money requested would go to establish a statewide consortium on science, computer, and high-technology education. The plan includes inservice training for 10,000 teachers per year and regional clearinghouses for research and development on computer hardware and software.

Governor Orr and Mr. Negley have also proposed forgivable college loans for prospective teachers in mathematics, science, and other areas of critical shortages, and a $500,000 program to retrain current teachers in such areas.

Their plan would also: require that at least one member of the state board of education be a representative of business and industry; expand a two-year-old pilot project to reduce class sizes and provide counselors for pupils in kindergarten through grade 3; and extend the required school year from 175 days to 180.

The House killed the bill on extending the school year, but each of the other elements of the plan has been approved by at least one chamber of the legislature, said Paul W. Krohne, associate superintendent of the state education department.

The House is considering a measure that would change reporting requirements for nonpublic schools. Currently, private schools are required to supply the names and addresses of their students to local superintendents, who then turn the lists over to the state. The bill under consideration would eliminate the requirement for names and addresses and would instead require nonpublic schools to supply enrollment counts. The state's relationship to nonpublic schools will be examined in greater detail next summer as part of a legislative review of the department of public instruction, Mr. Krohne said.

Mr. Krohne said no firm budget proposals had been developed as of last week; the Orr administration and legislators were awaiting new economic forecasts.

In Ohio, where state officials hope a recently enacted 90-percent increase in the state income tax will provide more financial stability than the state has experienced in recent years, the state board of education has requested budget increases of about 7 percent over each of the next two years. Gov. Richard F. Celeste is expected to support the board's request in his biennial budget message this month.

The Governor requested, and received from the legislature, a $64-million appropriation to pay off most of the state's share of desegregation costs in Columbus and Cleveland. The state was found partially responsible for intentional segregation in the two districts and ordered to pay half the costs.

William L. Phillis, assistant state superintendent of public instruction, said he expected a move to repeal the permissive local income tax for schools that was enacted last year. The major reasons, he said, are that the local income tax has traditionally been reserved for municipalities, which are unhappy about sharing that tax base, and that the tax is difficult for employers to administer because school-district lines do not always coincide with municipal boundaries.

The state board has also recommended legislation requiring that prospective teachers pass a state-designated competency test before receiving licenses. Mr. Phillis added that "there probably will be legislation on math and science, but right now we don't really have a shortage [of teachers] in Ohio."

The Ohio Education Association is trying again to enact a collective-bargaining bill--versions have been passed twice before but vetoed by former Gov. James A. Rhodes. William Martin, a spokesman for the oea, said the bill would include procedures for impasse resolution, guidelines for the election of bargaining agents, and a requirement that boards negotiate if teachers choose to organize. More than three-quarters of Ohio's teachers are now covered by negotiated contracts, Mr. Martin said, but procedures are not uniform and some boards refuse to bargain.

By not exercising its veto power, the legislature has upheld the new minimum standards adopted in December by the state board. But some nonpublic schools are expected to lobby for exemption from any state oversight.

Michigan's financial problems continue to dominate the legislative agenda, and most of the discussion so far has centered on how big the current-year deficit is--estimates range from $600 million to $900 million--and whether solutions should be temporary or permanent. One legislative proposal calls for an extension of the income-tax increase, but taxes would decline if unemployment goes down.

Gov. James J. Blanchard has not yet made a public budget proposal for the upcoming biennium; the Governor has asked Phillip E. Runkel, state superintendent of public instruction, to coordinate the efforts of several education groups to come up with a solution to the chronic problem of financial instability.

Because the state constitution requires that the state pay the full cost of any new mandates, few program initiatives have been introduced. The only instructional-policy bill reported out of committee so far would permit children to enter kindergarten if they are five years old by Sept. 1; the current cutoff date is Dec. 1.

Illinois lawmakers, too, are preoccupied with the state's shaky finances. Gov. James R. Thompson has proposed a $1.8-billion tax package, but more than half of that would be required to fund state programs at the levels appropriated in the current fiscal year, "so we're not talking about a great influx of additional funds," said Robert Leininger, a legislative analyst for the state board of education.

The state board is seeking a $228-million increase in its budget, more than half of which would go to the teacher-retirement fund. New initiatives include alternative programs for truants, desegregation assistance, and a $637,500 master-teacher program that would provide $1,000 stipends and three days' release time for 500 exceptional teachers, who would provide inservice training to colleagues.

But the Governor's budget, released last week, does not assume passage of the tax increase and recommends instead that state support for public schools be cut by $206.3 million from 1983's appropriation level of $2 billion.

Mr. Thompson has conceded that his austerity budget would result in larger classes, school closings, teacher layoffs, and reduced support for most instructional programs. But he has said that the spending plan is all the state can afford without a tax increase.

No radical changes in the school-finance formula are expected this session, but legislators may confront one change. The extra state funds for compensatory education have been allotted according to 1970 census figures; if the state shifts to the 1980 census figures, as the federal government has done, urban districts will lose money.

Several legislators have introduced measures to relax state mandates governing such areas as driver education and physical education. The state board, which recently completed a study of state mandates, will make its own recommendations on deregulation, Mr. Leininger said.

In addition, the board is promoting legislation that would give it explicit power to issue and enforce school-desegregation guidelines. The state supreme court ruled last year that the board's desegregation standards were invalid because they were not expressly authorized by the state constitution or statutes.

Wisconsin schools, despite a $300-million state deficit, would hold onto their current share of state funds under Gov. Anthony S. Earl's budget proposal. Although the Governor's budget would increase education spending by only 5 percent, schools would still receive 39 percent of overall state revenues, as they have for each of the last two years.

Increases in the sales and income taxes are considered likely this session. For the longer term, the Governor and Herbert J. Grover, state superintendent of public instruction, plan to appoint a committee to examine the state-aid formula.

Some legislators are pressing for repeal of the 1975 state law limiting local school districts' expenditures. Because of inflation and "extenuating circumstances," the cap has been changed so many times that it is almost meaningless, according to Amza C. Vail, the education department's legislative liaison. Local voters would still have to approve district tax levies and operating budgets.

Governor Earl also wants to reorganize the state's 19 intermediate educational-service districts, which provide technical assistance in such areas as special and vocational education, into 12 districts.

Both the Governor and Mr. Grover have advocated stricter graduation requirements, which would require legislative action. But Mr. Grover's proposal for easing the shortage of mathematics and science teachers through forgivable college loans and other techniques probably will not be acted on in this session, Mr. Vail said, because the Governor believes it will stand a better chance when finances are more secure.

Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota has called for a 12-percent increase in the education budget over the next two years, bringing the state foundation level from $1,313 per pupil to $1,475. "Considering the times, it's a generous budget for education," said one state official. "Most of the education folks view it that way."

In addition, the state education department is promoting legislation to simplify the state-aid formula. The plan, officials say, would not result in significant savings or redistribution of funds. Some legislators are pressing for a long-range study of the state-aid scheme.

One representative plans to introduce legislation that would establish a system of vouchers for lower-income families. Worth about $1,400, the vouchers would be redeemable at the public or private school of the family's choice. (See story, page 6.)

School-district consolidation is considered likely to be one of the most volatile issues facing the legislature. One bill calls for the education department to produce a study on the effects of an 11,000-student minimum for each district; only 10 districts in the state currently exceed that enrollment.

Governor Perpich has also requested $6.6 million over the biennium to strengthen education in mathematics, science, and technology. The request includes grants for teacher training, seminars, and the development of model high-school courses.

Vol. 02, Issue 24

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