States Education Issues
No legislative recommendations have been made yet in Alabama, where the legislature does not convene until April 19. However, Gov. George C. Wallace has appointed a special committee, whose members represent all levels of education, that will work to develop a "unified education budget," according to an aide to the Governor. "One of the Governor's major interests is having all areas work together on education," the aide said.
A special session of the legislature, convened in January, passed a law requiring school districts to deduct association dues from teachers' paychecks if teachers request it.
The Arkansas education agency, which had to cut $13 million from its $489-million education budget last year before the year even got underway, would receive $503 million for elementary and secondary schools this year under Gov. Bill Clinton's proposal.
State education officials "will be lucky to stay on an even keel," according to D.L. Pilkington, deputy director of the state department of education.
There has been talk about raising taxes, but the new Governor promised during his campaign that there would be no general tax increase until the state economy turns around. A mineral severance tax and a cigarette tax being considered by the legislature would have little effect on school spending.
Although it has spent a year studying ways of making the school-finance system more equitable, the legislature probably will not change the system until the state supreme court hands down a decision in Alma v. Dupree, a lawsuit brought on behalf of poor districts.
Both houses have approved a bill that would establish a statewide standards commission; a proposal to begin a "master-teacher program" has been reported out of committee; and lawmakers are considering a loan program to encourage qualified students to become teachers in mathematics, science, and other critical areas. A proposed study of school-district consolidation did not get out of committee.
An act that would protect teachers from "unfair dismissal" was approved by the state Senate and forwarded to the House. Meanwhile, the House rejected a measure that would have required all school districts in the state to have personnel policies approved by the teachers and school board.
According to Don R. Roberts, director of the state department of education, a bill that would appoint a commission of business and government leaders to promote the use of microcomputers in basic-skills instruction has a good chance of being approved by the legislature. Last week, 16 representatives of business and industry demonstrated their support for such a program by pledging $240,000. The money will be used to start programs in elementary schools.
"We're not talking about one computer per classroom," Mr. Roberts said. "We want to put 8 to 10 computers in each class in grades 4 through 6."
The Florida legislature will not convene until April 5, but several measures proposed so far indicate that, as one committee staff aide said, "It is shaping up to be a major year for education." The two major issues are likely to be whether the state should adopt a required curriculum and how to solve the mathematics and science problem. In addition, Gov. Robert Graham and legislators in both chambers have proposed measures that would increase the "required local effort"--property taxes--devoted to education. New revenue may also be raised through increased taxes on liquor and on stocks and bonds.
Governor Graham's proposed budget for the fiscal year 1983 would increase funding for education to $3.4 billion--up $350 million from the current budget.
During fiscal 1983, the Governor proposes to spend $2.87 million on inservice programs for teachers in mathematics and science.
To date, one bill has been introduced in the Senate that would enforce a statewide, required curriculum, as was proposed by the Governor's commission on secondary education. Taking the opposite approach, members of the House are currently drafting a bill that would recommend goals for a "high-quality education" and would establish two advanced diplomas beyond the general diploma. The House bill would make adoption of the goals and courses voluntary on the part of local school boards. It would, however, provide financial incentives for districts that chose to offer the more rigorous courses.
Both chambers have also offered measures to deal with the mathematics and science problem. House Speaker Lee Moffit has introduced a bill that would provide $2,000 bonuses for teachers of mathematics and science and forgivable loans for prospective teachers in those disciplines, and lengthen the school day to permit small-group instruction.
The Senate bill, introduced in "discussion draft" form late last month, would set minimum required courses for graduation. Under that bill, which is likely to be modified, students would be required to take four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of science, three years of social studies, and two years of a foreign language. Since 1977, when the state board of education repealed the graduation requirements that it had set, Florida has left graduation requirements up to the districts. However, argue proponents of the Senate bill, since high-school diplomas say "State of Florida" on it, the state has both the right and the responsibility to back those diplomas with uniform requirements.
The Senate bill also proposes several measures to alleviate the shortage of qualified mathematics and science teachers. They include intensive inservice training for all teachers, which would be focused first on science and mathematics teachers; forgivable scholarships for students who prepare to teach in fields with critical shortages; funds for teacher recruitment, and language--but not money--to encourage more participation of noncertified scientific experts from industry.
The Georgia legislature, which was scheduled to adjourn last week, cut $66 million from the current fiscal year's budget, most of it by deferring planned expenditures rather than trimming existing programs. State revenues have been up slightly in the past few months, so state officials hope that the worst of the recession is behind them.
Gov. Joe Frank Harris proposed $1.4 billion for education, including a 5-percent pay increase for teachers, and a $60-million school-construction bond issue. The state department of education had asked for a $1.7-billion budget and a 10-percent raise for staff members. The department also recommended adding a 16th "step" to the salary schedule.
Several bills were introduced to raise the sales tax by 1 cent, earmarking the proceeds for education. One such bill, which also provided for a property-tax rollback, had been passed by the House and was pending in the Senate last week. A new state constitution, which goes into effect on July 1, will eliminate the local-option sales tax now in use in 11 counties. State officials believe a statewide increase in the sales tax would result in more equitable distribution of education funds.
Because of a dispute over state regulation of private schools, some legislators mounted a campaign to bring the education department under the state administrative-procedures act, which would permit legislative review and veto of the department's rules. The House version of the bill also included the board of regents for higher education. A Senate substitute would simply prohibit the education department from making any rules pertaining to private schools, including the reporting of attendance.
Another bill, supported by the Harris administration, would create an education review commission, with members appointed by the Governor to examine selected educational issues and make recommendations.
A collective-bargaining bill was introduced but had not been acted upon as of last week.
Kentucky has no legislative session this year, but the state has had to deal with budget woes because of shortfalls in the state's $2.39-billion budget, which has faced three rounds of cuts.
The education department's share of the budget for 1982-83 is $1.15 billion, with an appropriation of $961 million going in direct state aid to schools.
A legislative research commission is currently studying the size of school districts and the effects of size on education. Another commission is studying the desirability of introducing prayer into the schools. A report on vocational education is due June 1.
The education department has been involved in studies on school-finance reform and basic skills. The Basic Skills Task Force will present its final report this summer, and a 9-month study that examines "every aspect of school finance" is due July 1, according to education department officials.
Louisiana's budgetary problems result from the steady drop in crude-oil prices; for every $1 drop in the barrel price, the state loses $31 million in revenue. State officials expect to lose $210 million this year because of the price cuts.
Because of the 4.4-percent shortfall in the current fiscal year, Gov. David C. Treen has asked all agencies to plan for 5-percent cuts. he is asking for a 15-percent across-the-board cut. Education, which is scheduled to receive $1.18 billion this year, will be the last function to undergo cuts, he has pledged.
Because of a constitutional prohibition against raising taxes during a regular session of an odd-numbered year, the legislature may convene in special session later this year. Among the revenue-raisers being discussed are higher prices for automobile licenses and driver's licenses and laboratory fees at vocational schools.
Superintendent J. Kelly Nix is promoting the idea of forgivable college loans for prospective teachers of mathematics and science.
In Mississippi, education is drawing little attention during this regular session, although there is talk in some quarters of repealing parts of Gov. William Winter's comprehensive educational-reform package, which was passed in a December special session.
The state faces a deficit of about $25 million in the current fiscal year, part of which may be made up by accelerating tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect in January 1984.
Governor Winter has requested $484 million in basic support for schools and $43 million for vocational education next year; his basic-support request has been approved by one chamber of the legislature. In addition, House Bill 403, which has been passed by the House and awaits Senate action, would lift the 25-mill property-tax limit currently imposed on local school districts.
Legislation to address shortcomings in mathematics and science education is expected; a professional-negotiations bill promoted by the Mississippi Association of Educators died in committee.
The North Carolina General Assembly's appropriations committee has asked all agencies to suggest 3-percent cuts to eliminate a projected $135-million shortfall in this year's $4.5-billion budget. That would require a $45-million cut in the $1.5-billion budget for elementary and secondary education.
Two tax-increase bills are under consideration: one would hike the sales tax from 4 to 5 percent; the other would raise it from 4 to 6 percent but would exempt food from any sales tax.
The state board of education has proposd changing the formula that adjusts state aid to localities to provide a one-year cushion for areas losing aid because of declining enrollment.
The private Commission on Child Advocacy has proposed changes in the state laws allowing mild forms of corporal punishment. The legislature is not expected to act on the proposal quickly.
Also under consideration is a $1-million summer program under which mathematics and science teachers would provide instruction to prospective teachers in those fields. Certified teachers who wish to go into mathematics and science would be eligible for scholarships.
And Representative Howard B. Chapin, a veteran schoolteacher, has introduced a bill to set up a pilot program enabling college professors and schoolteachers to change places for 10 days a year. A. Craig Phillips, the state superintendent of public instruction, endorsed the experiment, saying it would mesh well with efforts to upgrade teacher education. He added, however, that he thinks it should be established by the state board of education, not mandated by statute.
In a state budget of $2 billion, South Carolina faces a shortfall of $60 million to $80 million. The education budget is $800 million. Gov. Richard W. Riley has asked for a 1-cent sales tax hike (from 4 cents) to close the gap. Education is said to be a top priority of governor.
Nothing else new this year--they're just following through on some earlier initiatives.
The major issue in Tennessee is Gov. Lamar Alexander's ambitious "Better Schools Program," a comprehensive package of changes including mandatory kindergarten, computer education, and a controversial plan to reward outstanding teachers with increased pay and responsibilities. (See story on page 1.)
In addition, the legislature has passed and sent to the Governor a revised version of a "moment-of-silence" bill that was enacted last year but struck down as unconstitutional. This year, the sponsors removed references to prayer and meditation in the hope that it would withstand a court challenge.
Another bill would classify principals as administrators for purposes of collective bargaining. The problem, according to Judith A. Anderson, assistant to the deputy commissioner of education, was that principals' role in teacher negotiations has never been clearly defined; the bill, backed by the state's association of local school superintendents, would establish employment contracts of up to three years for principals and put them on the administration's side in bargaining with teachers' organizations.
The Virginia general assembly, which adjourned on Feb. 27, modified Gov. Charles Robb's proposal to trim $100 million from education's 1982-84 budget.
Instead of the across-the-board pay freeze the Governor wanted for all state employees, the legislature exempted college teachers and agreed to assume responsibility for employee contributions to the pension fund. The net effect is a 5-percent increase in take-home pay.
The legislature also exempted education from Governor Robb's proposed 6-percent cut in agency operations. He had proposed exempting only health and welfare from the cut. Mr. Robb wanted to trim $20 million from the $596-million basic-aid program for local schools; the legislature restored 90 percent of the money. But the final budget, passed on the last day of the session, sets the state's minimum contribution per pupil at $1,426; the Governor proposed $1,464.
The current state deficit, estimated at over $300 million, will be erased by 1984 through adjustments in contingency funds and tax increases, and by collecting back taxes, state officials say. Accelerated collection of prepaid taxes from corporations and individuals raised $16.4 million for education.
Several bills, most of which relate to the placement of handicapped children in residential facilities, were passed as a result of state studies. A bill setting a grievance procedure for teachers and school boards was approved. And the legislature raised the drinking age from 18 to 19.
The West Virginia legislature, as of last week, was still holding hearings on Gov. John D. Rockefeller 4th's budget proposal for 1983-84. The Governor called for $123 million in new taxes and a $15-million increase for education, but no pay raises for school employees--for the second consecutive year.
Legislative aides said one reason for the delay was that lawmakers are awaiting Judge Arthur M. Recht's response to the state's plan for complying with his finance-reform and curriculum-reform orders. The judge is expected to issue his response in two parts: one dealing with taxation and one on instructional matters.
"People have been for a long time waiting for a decision from Judge Recht, thinking it would come down during the legislative session. Since it doesn't look like it will come, I don't think there'll be major changes in the finance formula," said David Ice, consultant to the house education committee. The session is scheduled to end on March 12.
The legislature has, however, moved on a number of educational issues. One bill pending in the House education committee would set up forgivable college loans--paying for tuition, room and board, and fees for the sophomore year and thereafter--to students who are willing to teach mathematics and science for three years. Teachers who want to move from other subjects into mathematics and science would also be eligible for the program.
The same committee has heard testimony on a bill to limit state regulation of nonpublic schools. Currently, the laws permit counties to require that nonpublic schools hire certified teachers, that students attend such schools for a minimum number of days and hours, and that curricula meet certain standards. The proposed legislation would permit the state education department or the counties to look only at schools' standardized test scores in evaluating schools for accreditation. The bill would still require the schools to meet health and fire codes.
And a bill pending in the House judiciary committee would amend the state child-abuse law to permit paddling. The State Supreme Court ruled last year that corporal punishment using a paddle violated the abuse laws now on the books.
Beginning in the fall, class sizes in elementary schools will be limited--to 20 pupils in kindergarten and 25 in grades 1 through 6. Because some rural districts are responding to the measure by combining two grades in one classroom, legislators in both chambers have introduced bills that would place a cap on the number of "split grades" a school could have.
A collective-bargaining bill, mandating binding arbitration at the local level, was proposed, but was not expected to pass.