Legislatures, State Boards Increase School Standards, Teacher Salaries
Education has been a preoccupation of state lawmakers during the current legislative season. Last December, Education Week published a 50-state survey summarizing the legislative actions related to school reform that state officials were then anticipating (see issue number 13, Dec. 7, 1983). The following reports update the survey for those states that have concluded their current legislative session.
Anne Bridgman, Sheppard Ranbom, and Susan Walton reported these accounts.
The Georgia Legislature concluded its 1984 session this month by passing a state budget of $4.3 billion, $1.6 billion of which will go to public education.
But, pending the release next fall of the report of the Governor's Education Review Commission, the legislature did not consider any major curriculum or finance reform. Such proposals, a spokesman for the Governor said, are likely to be included in the 1985 legislative session.
The budget includes $331 million in new money, $171 million of which is earmarked for education. Overall, about 36 percent of the state budget is allocated to education--about the same level as last year.
The new funding includes a 10-percent salary increase for classroom teachers--the largest in years--which will bring beginning teachers' annual pay up to $14,329, according to the Georgia Department of Education. Superintendents, principals, curriculum directors and other supervisory personnel will receive a 3-percent increase. The legislature also added an 18th step to the teacher salary scale, which will raise the salary for a doctorate-level teacher to $27,703, exclusive of any local supplement.
Other education-related measures approved by the legislature include $11.3 million to pay for health insurance for bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and other noncertified personnel; funds for five county vocational-technical schools; and funds to build comprehensive high schools in five counties and one city.
The legislature also approved a bill that will appear on the ballot next November, which would change the state superintendency from an elected to an appointed position. The change would require a constitutional amendment.
A new compulsory-attendance law, which replaces one struck down last fall by the state's supreme court, was also enacted. The new law is the first to set requirements for home schooling in Georgia, according to the state education department.
Under the new law, parents who have at least a high-school diploma or a certificate of general educational development may teach their children at home. Beginning Sept. 1, parents who wish to set up a home-education program must send a declaration of intent to their local superintendent within 30 days of beginning the instruction, list the names and ages of the children, and submit attendance records monthly to the local superintendent.
The instructional program must include, but is not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. The law requires the children in the home-education programs to take nationally standardized tests, beginning in the 3rd grade, at least every three years. The records of those tests must be retained, but need not be sent to the school district.
Children who are educated at home must be taught for at least 4.5 hours for 180 days a year. The parent instructor, who may not teach children other than his or her own, must write an annual report assessing the students' progress.
Private schools will be required to submit attendance records to the local superintendent and to conduct their programs in buildings that have been inspected for safety. But the law does not set any requirements on teacher certification in private schools.
For students in all schools, the ages of compulsory attendance are 7 to 16 years of age, as they were under the previous law.
The Indiana legislature concluded its 1984 session on March 1 by defeating a merit-pay proposal recommended by the Governor's Select Advisory Commission for Primary and Secondary Education, and by approving most of Gov. Robert D. Orr's $35-million eight-point program for improving education.
The merit-pay program, according to Jeff Zaring, legislative aide to Governor Orr, passed in the Senate but failed to garner sufficient support for passage in the House. The average beginning salary of Indiana teachers is $12,685, according to the Indiana State Teachers Association.
The key element of the Governor's education-reform bill is the $19-million "Project Prime Time," which is designed to reduce the ratio of teachers to students in all K-3 classes over the next four years. The project will begin with all 1st-grade classes next fall, then proceed to 2nd and 3rd grade, then to kindergarten classes, Mr. Zaring said. The bill provides $18,000 for each additional classroom teacher hired at each grade level in an attempt to reduce the average class size to 18.
Another part of the Governor's package--statewide basic-skills testing and remediation--was also approved by the legislature. The $1.2-million program calls for all students in grade 3 and two additional grades--to be determined by the state board--to be tested starting in the spring of 1985 in mathematics, reading comprehension, and composition, Mr. Zaring said.
In addition, follow-up remediation will be provided for students who do not achieve acceptable scores on the skills tests.
The legislature also approved $1.5 million for programs for gifted and talented students in 1984-85, $3.4 million for summer-school programs in the 1984-85 fiscal year budget, and $550,000 for adult education, Mr. Zaring said.
The legislature approved a bill that prohibits the state from requiring master's degrees as the sole means of renewing teacher licenses. Under this law, lifetime licenses will no longer be issued, according to Mr. Zaring.
A second, related bill calls for teachers to pass an examination covering general knowledge, professional education, and, in some cases, subject-matter comprehension, to receive an initial standard license. And beginning in 1988, teachers will be able to use continuing-education units for the purpose of obtaining salary increments.
The state board of education will be restructured under another bill passed by the legislature. Effective July 1, the state superintendent of public instruction will serve as chairman of the full board; the remaining 10 members will be appointed by the Governor for four-year terms.
Under the current law, the board is made up of three autonomous commissions on textbook adoption, teacher training and licensing, and general education, each headed by the superintendent of public instruction. These separate groups will, under the new law, be part of one unified state board, according to Mr. Zaring.
Lawmakers also passed a bill allowing the state's 304 school districts to receive state funding through electronic-funds transfers to speed up distribution of state aid. Another bill expands to include accredited private schools in a year-old law that allows individuals to claim tax credits for donating computer equipment to public schools.
The legislature addressed the issue of parental kidnapping by adding to the criminal code a provision that makes the transport of minors across state lines by noncustodial parents in violation of a court order a felony, punishable by two years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Among the bills that were not approved by the legislature were recommendations for mandatory kindergarten, extension of the 175-day school year, and lowering the compulsory-attendance age from 7 to no later that Sept. 15 after a child's 5th birthday.
In addition, under a new law signed by Governor Orr late last month, English will be the official language of the state of Indiana when schools open next fall.
The bill was initiated by Senator Joseph V. Corcoran to circumvent an effort to make Spanish the primary language in some schools. According to Mr. Corcoran, about four school districts in north central Indiana had been considering using English as a second language in their bilingual-education programs. "We wanted to cut off that possibility before it became an emotional issue," he said.
He also said that commerce in the state would be "handicapped if we have to do it bilingually" and that bilingual-education advocates establish an "artificial barrier" for students and "effectively 'ghetto-ize' them."
The New Mexico legislature is meeting in special session this week after failing to agree on funding for the state's general appropriations bill by the end of its regular session on Feb. 15.
Included in Gov. Toney Anaya's $1.45-billion appropriations request is a 1-cent increase in the state's sales tax to raise $167 million for improvements in education. In addition, Governor Anaya has called for a 16.2-percent increase--or $718.6 million--in state aid for elementary and secondary schools.
If the appropriations resolution is not passed during the special session, which began last Friday, school districts will have to operate on a continuing resolution under current funding levels, said Luciano R. Baca, associate director of the Governor's office of education. The continuing resolution applies only to those resolutions that were included in the general appropriations bill; all other activities would go unfunded, he explained.
Among the resolutions to be considered in the special session are raising the salaries of beginning teachers from $14,800 to $16,300. Neither the House nor the Senate was willing to approve the level of funding required for the bill's passage, Mr. Baca said. "Hopes for raising it to the recommended level are almost nonexistent," he said, "but we are hoping for some upward movement." Additional funding for two capital-outlay programs for schools will also be discussed in the special session.
A resolution providing $50,000 for an analysis of education issues by a legislative study committee is also under consideration.
In the regular legislative session, which began Jan. 17, "we saw very few significant [education] bills passed," Mr. Baca said.
One of those approved and signed by Governor Anaya requires the New Mexico Board of Education to apply for funding pursuant to the provisions of P.L. 94-142. Prior to the passage of the bill, New Mexico was the only state that did not participate in the federal special-education funding program. In a meeting March 2, the state board took initial steps toward compliance with the law, Mr. Baca said.
In addition, the legislature amended and the Governor signed the Education Retirement Act; teachers may now retire with full benefits after 25 years of service instead of the previously mandated 30 years.
To qualify for state aid, school districts must now measure their school attendance on the 40th day of the school year, according to another bill passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, Mr. Baca said. Districts previously could count the best attendance level between the 40th and 80th days. Special-education students may still be counted up to the 80th school day, he said.
A bill passed by the legislature calls for merging the Governor's office of education and the state department of education; the Governor has said he will veto the bill, Mr. Baca said.
A proposal to increase the school year by 10 days for teachers died in the House appropriations committee, Mr. Baca said. In addition, neither an education department proposal that teachers in shortage fields receive higher pay nor a state board proposal that teachers pass classroom-observation tests reached the floor of the legislature.
The Utah legislature will meet in special session later this month to determine how much state funding should go into the career-ladder program it approved during its regular 20-day budgetary session, which ended in late January.
The career-ladder law, proposed last November by the Utah Education Reform Steering Committee, will take effect July 1. It authorizes districts to develop a compensation and evaluation system that meets the approval of the State Board of Education.
Under the new law, career-ladder programs devised by districts may include: extended contracts for teachers who take on special teaching assignments, such as handicapped, remedial, and adult-education programs and summer school; salary boosts for teachers who assume added instruction-related responsibilities such as assisting beginning teachers, curriculum development, supervising other teachers, and training volunteers; and increases in pay for staff members who take assignments aimed at establishing positive relationships with the community, business, and parents.
"Administrative and extracurricular activities shall not be considered additional instruction-related activities," the law says.
It requires that districts provide the state board with "a clear and concise explanation" of the evaluation system they want to adopt and that parents, teachers, administrators, and the local school board be involved in the development of the evaluation system.
Advancement on the career-ladder program, the law says, is "contingent upon effective teaching performance, evidence of which may include formal evaluation and assessment of student progress."
"Student progress shall play a significant role in teacher evaluation," the law adds.
The appropriations bill for education that is likely to be approved during the special session would set total funding for public education at about $711 million, an increase of about $67 million from last year. The anticipated increase includes $15.2 million for career ladders and performance-based pay, according to Bernarr S. Furse, administrative assistant to the state superintendent in the Utah State Office of Education.
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Legislatures, Boards Raise School Standards, Teacher Salaries
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and some doubt as to whether "the same legislation had been approved by both houses," according to James L. Wilson, associate general counsel for the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
Gov. Scott M. Matheson, in his address to the legislature in January, had called for $861 million for elementary and secondary education and an additional $148 million to finance an education-reform package and offset the increased costs of the state's rapidly growing school-age population, which will increase school enrollments by about 16,000 students next year.
The legislature, concerned about the enrollment growth and escalating costs, also approved an act that will require the state board to establish new rules to cut the costs of school programs.
Under the law, the state board must report to the legislature each year on the effects of its rules on cutting costs. But any savings must be put back into the reform program," according to Mr. Wilson.
"We can only do so much reform with the -percent increase in the sales tax that the legislature approved," Mr. Wilson said. Most of that money is needed to pay for the extensive damage throughout the state caused by recent flooding, in addition to providing basic services for the growing school population, he added.
The legislature also approved a bill to establish a "Utah Career Teaching Scholarship Program" to recruit and train superior students to teach in the state's public schools.
Scholarships will be awarded to students who are about to enter or have already entered an authorized teaching program. The state will6fund some 365 full-tuition scholarships each year.
In addition, the state will grant 20 students "premier scholarships'' of $3,000; 100 other students who declare their intent to teach in areas with teacher shortages--such as mathematics, science, foreign languages, or computers--will receive supplementary stipends of $500 per quarter, according to Mr. Furse.
The legislature agreed to fund the program annually as a line item in the budget for the state board of regents.
According to Mr. Wilson, the legislature also repealed 64 "archaic, obsolete, and duplicative rules" and set standards for school-board elections.
Another bill to stagger elections for school-board members passed in both houses but was held up because of a "technical flaw"; a teacher-evaluation bill and a bill to consolidate school districts to one per county, cutting the number of districts from 40 to 29, was voted down by the House; and a bill to remove extracurricular activities from the school day did not get out of the House education committee, Mr. Furse said.
A tuition-voucher system bill was defeated by the House by only 5 votes. "The legislature wanted to send a signal to educators to sharpen up their act or be assured there will be enough votes for school vouchers," Mr. Furse said.
The legislature, which met for only 20 days, spent most of its time on budgetary actions. To receive floor consideration, bills had to be approved by two thirds of the members in each body. A number of bills did not receive the needed votes, the officials said, including one to lower the age at which students could leave school from 18 to 16 and another to reduce class size from 27 students per teacher to 24.
Vol. 03, Issue 25