State News Roundup
A bill exempting private schools from state curriculum and teacher-certification regulations passed in the Colorado House by a slim margin last week, despite opposition from the leadership of both parties and from the Association of Colorado Independent Schools.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. James E. Moore, who called it "an innovative, constitutional step forward."
But Majority Leader Ronald Strahle warned that without teacher-certification safeguards,"a person who couldn't read or write could teach English."
Testimony arguing that parents have constitutional rights to define their children's education helped push the bill through the House, according to a legislative staffer.
A statewide poll conducted for The Omaha World Herald indicates that Nebraska residents strongly oppose a bill that would allow school districts the option of dropping the traditional five-day school week in favor of an alternative calendar system.
The bill, introduced in the Nebraska legislature, would permit districts to keep schools open for fewer than 5 days a week, provided they require the same number of hours of instruction as districts in which schools operate on a five-day week.
The bill is intended to allow students in rural school districts more hours away from school during the harvest season.
Of the scientifically selected sample of 602 adults, 62 percent disapproved of the pending legislation. Thirty percent supported it. Eight percent had no opinion on the matter.
Adults between the ages of 18 and 24 registered the highest approval rate for the plan (40 percent) while those between the ages of 35 and 44 registered the lowest approval rate (18 percent).
Gov. James J. Blanchard of Michigan last week signed into law a 38-percent income-tax increase, a move designed to boost the state's budget.
The tax hike, which will decline gradually over the next four years, should raise about $3.6 billion through 1986. Governor Blanchard predicted it would erase the state's current $900-million deficit.
That comes as good news to Michigan's beleaguered public-school officials. Since taking office in January, Mr. Blanchard has postponed state-aid payments to local school districts three times. And his predecessor, William G. Milliken, cut education aid three times in two years.
"This is the best thing to happen to schools in a long time," said Tom Farrell of the education department. "[This] month, when the money starts coming in, local districts should really feel the difference."
Also last week, however, the Governor pushed through the state legislature in one day budget cuts of $225 million. Elementary and secondary education will lose $25 million, though school officials said they were not overly upset at the cuts because they felt the tax hike will make for a more secure future.
Prompted by a gubernatorial threat to suspend state aid to local school districts, the Colorado legislature late last month acted to overcome an anticipated $120-million deficit in the current state budget.
After waiting more than two months for legislators to act, an impatient Gov. Richard D. Lamm warned that $27 million in monthly payments to school districts would be withheld if legislation to meet the deficit was not enacted before the end of March.
The legislature responded by vo-ting to increase the state's sales tax for 10 months beginning on May 1. The move will raise the minimum guaranteed base level of state support per pupil by $175 from the current $2,195 next year.
One week after issuing his threat, the Governor signed a short-term ''bail-out" bill that will reduce state school aid in the current calendar year by $13.7 million, a cut of about 2.25 percent.
According to Wesley Apker, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, most local districts anticipated the 1983 state-aid reduction and so will not have to cut back on personnel or essential services.
The Ohio State Board of Education is considering new licensing standards for administrators that would set up a "common core" of academic preparation, establish a "mentor" program for first-year administrators, and require continuing professional education.
The standards, developed by a 26-member committee appointed by Franklin B. Walter, state superintendent of public instruction, would be phased in through December 1984.
They have been the subject of one public hearing; a second hearing on the final recommendations is scheduled for May.
Sue Ann Norton, director of communications for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said her organization is "very supportive" of the proposed rules and expects them to be passed without major revision.
The provisions dealing with academic preparation of administrators essentially codify changes already made by education schools, she said. Through the mentor program, she added, first-year administrators would work under the guidance of a nearby college or other institution "to be supported, shored up, encouraged, and assured that their work is on target."
Some Idaho business leaders have recently sent letters to legislators and to Gov. John V. Evans voicing their support for increased support for public schools.
Paul Corddry, president of Ore-Ida Foods Inc., John Fery of Boise Cascade Corporation, and members of the Pocatello Chamber of Commerce have indicated that they want the legislature to provide more money for public education in 1984 than is currently planned. Republican leaders in the state are talking about a $7-million cut in education spending, according to a spokesman for the Governor, bringing the budget down to $208 million in 1984.
The business leaders support, for example, a temporary sales-tax increase that would raise an estimated $50 million in 1984.
A bill that would permit local bargaining between teachers and school districts for salaries over the amount set by the state is being considered by the Washington legislature.
At present, the state sets limits on teachers' pay raises, and local districts do not have the right to bargain over additional increases.
The bill, which is now in a House committee, is sponsored by the Washington Education Association.
Ginny D. Nixon, a wea lobbyist, said opponents of the bill argue that allowing the bargaining would result in teacher layoffs, because school districts would have to reduce the teaching force to afford the pay raises.
A separate measure, introduced by the bill's opponents, would allow a "lottery" system of teacher layoffs in the event they are needed, Ms. Nixon said. Under this bill, one of three teachers would be laid off through the lottery system, instead of on the basis of seniority, as is now the case.
Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio last week called for a state education budget that disappointed school officials and interest groups, but that may be more stable than spending plans in recent years.
The Governor proposes to spend $4.6 billion on elementary and secondary schools during the next biennium, a $200-million increase over the amount that was originally appropriated for the 1982-83 biennium but has been cut several times. The state education department had urged at least a $4.8-billion appropriation for the biennium, and the Ohio Education Association had called for $5.1 billion.
Mr. Celeste's plan includes a 5-percent increase in the minimum teacher salary, bringing the base to $12,075; a hike in basic state aid to school districts, from an average of $1,680 per pupil to $1,935; and strengthened programs in mathematics, science, and pupil competency testing. His higher-education budget calls for increasing state grants to students by 5 percent, effective on Jan. 1, and for raising the eligibility standard so that more students from middle-income families may qualify.
State and local education leaders said the small increase would not be enough to compensate for past cuts and rising costs and predicted that many districts would be forced to seek local tax increases or loans from the state's emergency fund.
But several district superintendents said the Governor's proposal was more "realistic" than past budgets and might be less susceptible to disruptive midyear cuts.
The two-year spending plan, accompanied by proposed tax changes that would increase business levies and provide relief to middle- and lower-income families, is not expected to reach a floor vote in the state House of Representatives until May. It will then go to the Senate.
Vol. 02, Issue 28