Education Highlighted in Governor's Messages to State Legislatures
Anne Bridgman, Cindy Currence, and Sheppard Ranbom also contributed to this report.
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo asked New York legislators last week to approve funding for a wide array of new programs in education and other areas and asserted that no tax increases would be necessary this year to support the programs.
Like other states, officials said, New York has benefited from the recent economic recovery and should enjoy a revenue surplus of about $100 million this year. Political leaders are divided on how to use that money, with Democrats generally favoring spending increases and Republicans generally favoring tax cuts.
In his annual address to a joint session of the Senate and Assembly, the Governor proposed revision of the school-finance formula to narrow disparities in spending between the state's school districts, creation of a loan-forgiveness program to attract "quality people" to the teaching profession, and establishment of low-interest loans to public and private schools for the purchase of computer equipment.
Governor Cuomo also asked the legislators to increase aid to public and private schools to purchase textbooks, create a network of regional technology centers, increase funds for adult-literacy programs, fund pilot "mentor teacher" programs, and establish demonstration programs for all disciplines.
The Governor also endorsed raising the legal drinking age in the state from 19 to 21.
Aides to Governor Cuomo said the Governor's staff is still working out the details of the proposals, including the costs. Those details will be included in the Governor's budget message on Jan. 17.
Legislators and other state officials reacted along party lines to the speech by Governor Cuomo, a Democrat.
The state's Republican comptroller, Edward V. Regan, who has projected budget surpluses of about $100 million this year and $1.6 billion next year, said the state should give tax cuts priority over spending increases. "There should be a tax cut, even if it's just a small one, as a symbolic gesture," said an aide to Mr. Regan.
The legislature last year increased taxes and fees by about $1 billion to balance the state's $18.5-billion budget. About $4.8 billion of that budget is allocated to programs for education.
Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink praised the new initiatives but suggested that the Governor should give priority to few programs because "we are not going to be able to get them all done."
Mr. Fink and other party leaders in the Assembly last month called on the state to increase aid to local districts by $5.7 billion over the next five years to reduce spending gaps between wealthy and poor districts.
Aides to Governor Cuomo would not say whether the Governor would propose school-finance reform similar to that plan, which stresses increased aid to poor districts, rather than a more fundamental change in the state-aid formula.'
The education proposals of the Governor and Assembly leaders came as the State Board of Regents was considering changes in its comprehensive "Action Plan" for improving education.
Several of the regents' proposals were sharply criticized in a series of 10 meetings across the state and are likely to be changed, said Gerald L. Freeborne, deputy commissioner for elementary, secondary, and continuing education.
Consequently, the regents are considering abandoning proposals that would require foreign-language proficiency for all students, an extension of the school year by 10 days for students and another 10 days for teachers, a state-mandated curriculum for elementary and private schools, and rigid curriculum standards for occupational and arts students.
Actions in Other States
Governors in other states also delivered, or were preparing for, their state-of-the-state addresses for 1984 last week. Among the states were:
Gov. Bruce Babbitt was planning to emphasize three areas--education, water and air pollution, and economic development--in his state-of-the-state address Jan. 9, according to a spokesman for the Governor.
He proposed to request a state budget about $700 million above his request last year of $1.7 billion, aides said. Of that figure, $926 million is slated for elementary and sec-ondary education, $46 million above last year's education expenditure.
One of the costliest items on the Governor's education agenda is his recommendation that the state provide financial incentives to attract people to the teaching profession. Governor Babbitt is asking that $6 million be provided for increased teacher salaries and a merit-pay plan, said James Apperson, special assistant to the Governor.
Another major educational reform supported by the Governor is increasing the length of the school year; he is expected to ask the legislature to extend it from 175 to 185 days.
A request for continued funding of several mathematics and science initiatives authorized by the legisla-ture last year at $400,000 was also to be included in the address, Mr. Apperson said. The funding will provide special training for current teachers and forgivable loans to prospective mathematics and science teachers, and will provide funds for outstanding high-school students to attend math and science seminars at state universities.
Other recommendations include: $150,000 for a computer-literacy training program for teachers (state officials estimate that less than 10 percent of Arizona teachers are "computer literate"); $75,000 for a ''Principals Institute" at one of the state universities; free textbooks for high-school students; and an increase in the compulsory-attendance level from the 8th to the 10th grade.
Gov. Robert D. Orr has announced--and was to reiterate in his address to the legislature this week--an eight-point, $35-million education-improvement package as part of his supplemental budget request for $144 million for the remainder of the 1983-85 biennium.
The state's total operating budget for the biennium is $14 billion, according to Garland Farrell, a staff member in the Governor's budget office. Education funding for the biennium was set at $4.4 billion.
The most expensive element of the Governor's current education package is a $19-million plan to reduce the student-teacher ratio to 18-to-1 in all 1st-grade classes, according to Nancy Dilaura, a spokesman in the Governor's office.
The Governor's package also calls for:
- The establishment of an $8-million Incentive Fund for Excellent Teachers and Better Schools, $5 million of which would go to local school districts that set up incentive-pay plans;
- Increased funding of summer-school programs, at a cost of $5 million, including $1.6 million for remedial education;
- Increased funding for programs for gifted and talented students, at a cost of $1.5 million;
- A statewide uniform basic-skills competency test for students in grades 3, 6, and 8, with remedial education in grades 4, 7, and 9 for those who fail the tests, at a cost of $1.2 million;
- Changes in the structure of the state board of education, including making the state superintendency an appointed instead of an elected position;
- Increased funding for adult education, at a cost of $550,000; and
- A provision that all school districts require kindergarten. All districts now voluntarily have kindergarten programs, according to Ms. Dilaura; this provision will make districts' compliance mandatory.
Gov. Robert Kerrey last week placed education along with economic and water-resource development as his top priorities for 1984.
The Governor's $788-million budget package calls for an overall 6-percent increase over last year and sets aside $190 million for education programs, according to A. Eugene Crump, the Governor's legal counsel and human-services advisor.
The education budget is up 1.7 percent (or $3.5-million) over last year, the aide said.
But the Governor also asked for an additional $25 million to begin to raise teacher salaries in the state to among the top 10 percent nationwide by 1990.
Governor Kerrey called on the legislature to approve upgraded high-school graduation standards and to lengthen the school year to 1,080 instructional hours. He also urged the adoption of legislation that would encourage "lateral entry" into the teaching profession.
Under the Governor's proposal, noncertified teachers could enter the profession provided they successfully completed a rigorous one-year internship program, Mr. Crump said.
The Governor also suggested revising the state's tenure law to allow administrators to assess and evaluate teachers and weed out those who are incompetent, Mr. Crump said.
The legislature will complete its budget by April 1, Mr. Crump said.
Gov. George P. Nigh--who last month encountered stiff resistance to proposals balancing the state budget--last week asked the legislature to approve tax increases and across-the-board budget cuts.
The Governor warned that the state's education system would "slide back to average programs" if the legislature did not deal with budget deficits. A special session of the legislature adjourned in November without taking any action to ease the state's projected $155-million deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends July 1.
Spending for all education programs accounts for about two-thirds of the state's 1984 general-revenue budget of $1.689 billion. Budgets for human services and miscellaneous programs total $530 million.
In his annual address to the legislature, Governor Nigh proposed increasing the state sales tax from 2 cents to 3 cents, taxing for the first time the sale of beer and cigarettes, and increasing fuel and alcohol taxes. The -cent sales-tax increase would expire in December 1985. It would bring in an additional $430 million over the next 18 months.
In addition to the tax increases, the Governor said, state agencies would have to reduce expenditures by 6 percent in fiscal 1984 and 2 percent in fiscal 1985, from budget levels for 1984 approved last year by the legislature.
Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy stressed the importance of the state's educa-tion system in his annual message to the legislature last week and announced that he will appoint a task force to study the schools and their relationship with businesses, colleges, and universities.
Governor Garrahy, who is serving his fourth two-year term and has said he will not run again for re-election, noted that during his tenure in office state support for education has grown 70 percent, from $86 million to its current level of about $147 million.
Gov. John Spellman will ask the 1984 legislature, which convenes this week, to approve his Education for Excellence Act of 1984, which calls for mandatory competency tests for students and new teachers.
The state's total operating budget for the 1983-85 biennium is $15.6 billion.
This month, the Governor will request a $107-million supplemental budget, according to a spokesman in his budget office.
Of that amount, $22 million is for education, including $2.1 million for the excellence act and almost $20 million to fund changes in transportation, bilingual education, and student enrollment to meet a May 1983 state court order to shore up "basic" instructional programs, according to W. Phillips Rockefeller, the Governor's assistant for education.
Other proposals included in Governor Spellman's education act are:
- A recommendation that the state board step up curricula for college-bound students, including four years of English; three of mathematics, science, and social studies; and two of foreign language, according to Mr. Rockefeller.
- A recommendation that the superintendent of public instruction include a drug- and alcohol-education program in schools' curricula, to begin in the next school year.
- Increased funding for dropout programs to mitigate the effects of increased standards, and funds for school districts that have developed "promising ways" to help students stay in school.
- The establishment of a teacher-of-the-year program to honor a dozen teachers annually.
- Provisions for gifted students, including funding for community-based procedures to screen and identify such students and to enrich their programs; and funding for the awarding of tuition waivers for up to four years of college for students who maintain a grade-point average of 3.5 or better.
- An administrators' training academy to develop management skills.
Gov. Anthony S. Earl will ask the legislature this month for $3 million to fund his "excellence in education" package, which includes a proposal for statewide minimum high-school-graduation requirements.
Calling the lack of specific state graduation requirements "scandalous," Governor Earl will ask lawmakers to enact graduation standards into law, said Nancy J. Wenzel, his policy advisor.
In addition, the Governor has recommended that current education statutes be revised to provide updated "educational expectations" for schools, she said.
The Governor will not ask for new funds to supplement the 1983-85 biennial budget, which was funded at $16.5 billion, according to Ms. Wenzel. Instead, effective March 30, he will eliminate a 10-percent surtax on individual and corporate income nine months earlier than scheduled. This move is in response to indications that the state economy has improved in the last year, shesaid.
Other proposals in the Governor's education package include:
- A requirement that local districts develop educational excellence plans with the guidance of the Department of Public Instruction;
- The development of vocational-education model curriculum guides, as suggested by business and industry representatives;
- The establishment of a state department-administered leadership institute for school administrators;
- A computer initiative to improve the instructional use of computers, including training 300 teachers in classroom uses;
- Upgrading of computer equipment for competency testing that will help districts create, give, and score tests; and
- Improvement of teacher- and administrator-training programs and higher admissions standards in education schools.
The Governor's school-finance task force is expected to make additional recommendations in October.
Vol. 03, Issue 16, Page 5, 14