Governors in Four of Five States Urge Hikes in Education Spending
Following are summaries of state-of-the-state and budget messages delivered by governors in recent weeks.
Gov. George C. Wallace last week asked the legislature to make Alabama "a leader in the education of our children," and proposed a 1985-86 budget for education of $2.12 billion.
That would increase state support by about $300 million over the 1984-85 budget of $1.8 billion, and would mark the second year in a row that education programs have received an approximately $300-million increase. The total state budget that has been proposed for 1985-86 is $2.63 billion.
The Governor has been a strong proponent of education reform since 1982. At that time, he noted, the state's unemployment rate was 16.6 percent--the second highest in the nation--and the state was predicting a revenue deficit and across-the-board budget cuts.
But last year, the state reported a surplus of approximately $250 million. And the Governor said there will be surpluses again this year in both the general fund and the education-trust fund.
Governor Wallace said the new budget could be funded without any increase in taxes due to the improvement in the state's economy and better enforcement of its revenue laws. In May, the legislature defeated the Governor's earlier proposals to increase the state's property and income taxes in order to increase support for education.
The Governor's priorities in education include reducing class size in kindergarten to 20 students; raising salaries by 5 percent for all teachers and by an additional 10 percent for tenured teachers; and putting into effect the career-ladder plan approved by the Governor's Education Reform Commission last month.
In addition, the Governor has asked for a 31-percent increase in state support for health-insurance benefits for active and retired education employees, and $35 million for the reserve fund for public-education employees' health insurance.
Teachers' unions are expected to demand improvements in health-insurance benefits before they will accept a career-ladder plan. The Governor also proposed a capital-outlay program for education but has not yet released details.
Some of the Governor's other priorities include cracking down on drug traffic, raising the drinking age to 21, and speeding completion of the state's highway system.
Education took a back seat to economic development in Gov. James R. Thompson's state-of-the-state address, but the Governor pledged to offer school-reform proposals and new funds for education in coming weeks.
The Governor said he would delay release of his education-reform package pending talks with school policymakers, aimed at developing a consensus plan. He has advocated higher salaries for teachers and hinted at support for an undefined merit-pay plan.
The Governor also said he might recommend tax increases totaling about $130 million, in part to pay for education reforms. But he refused to commit himself to giving elementa-ry and secondary education the 13.7-percent funding boost he has promised to higher-education institutions. He is scheduled to present his budget in early March.
Governor Thompson devoted most of his annual message to detailing a $2.3-billion "Build Illinois" program dealing primarily with business growth and infrastructure development. The program includes $20 million to upgrade equipment in mathematics and science classrooms and $5 million for vocational-education grants. Under the program, state dollars would be matched with a 10-percent local share of funds in each district.
The Governor also announced a novel plan to develop Japanese-language schools to serve families of business executives sent to Illinois on "entrepreneurial missions." Mr. Thompson's plan, the first such proposal by a governor, calls for the schools to be housed in existing schools wherever Japanese manufacturing facilities are located.
Although the Governor has not placed a price tag on the proposal, he has urged colleges and universities to develop curricula and train teachers for the schools.
Gov. Michael Dukakis, calling 1985 "the year for action on education," proposed a "blueprint for excellence" bill in his education message to the legislature this month.
The proposal would cost an estimated $219 million over a four-year period, far less than a similar bill the legislature rejected last year. The pricetag on that measure was estimated at $560 million over three years.
Governor Dukakis did not introduce his own bill last year, but recommended several amendments to the final version of the bill that came out of the Joint Education Committee of the legislature. The bill was passed by the House but never con-sidered by the Senate.
The Governor called his current bill "clear, understandable, focused on the real problems that face public education in Massachusetts today, and, best of all, a bill we can afford."
"It emphasizes," he continued, "the things that are most important--the upgrading of students' basic skills and knowledge, attracting and retaining first-rate teachers, rewarding outstanding achievement by students and teachers alike, and ensuring equal educational opportunity for all our children, not just those lucky enough to live in our more affluent cities and towns."
Governor Dukakis's bill includes proposals to provide a basic-skills test for reading, writing, and mathematics; a minimum teachers' salary of $18,000; and grants of up to $3,000 a year for teachers with added responsibilities. The new bill also proposes "Equal Education Opportunity" grants of $37.8 million the first year, $37 million the second year, $25 million the third year, and $15 million for the fourth year to equalize spending among poorer communities.
The Governor proposed an overall budget of $1.4 billion for elementary and secondary education, a slight increase over the fiscal 1984 budget of $1.3 billion.
Pennsylvania is "turning the tide toward quality in our schools, achievement among our students, and pride among our teachers," Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh told legislators in his state-of-the-state address last week.
The Governor proposed a $16.5-billion 1985-86 budget, which includes a $4.6-billion general-fund allocation for education and a $186-million cut in personal and business taxes to accelerate economic, employment, and education investments--the "key to this return of the Keystone State," he said.
The general-fund education budget includes a $193-million increase--to $3.4 billion--for basic education, a $46-million increase for higher education, and a $12-million increase for other educational services.
Governor Thornburgh noted that as a result of his 1983 education-reform package, "Turning the Tide:el10lAn Agenda for Excellence in Penn-sylvania Public Schools," the state has established "tough new course requirements for high-school graduation; new incentives to inspire and reward outstanding work among students; a new, 'early warning' test of basic reading and mathematics skills in the lower grades; and mandatory state-funded remedial instruction for those found to be in need of help."
According to the Governor, about 80,000 students are enrolled in remedial classes supported by last year's $24-million outlay.
The Governor is seeking another $48 million for remedial instruction in 1985-86. He also asked legislators to establish a $10-million "Excellence in Teaching" program through which outstanding teachers would be eligible to receive annual $2,000 awards. The legislature rejected a similar proposal last year.
Governor Thornburgh also recommended four new initiatives developed in conjunction with the Governor's Commission on Financing Higher Education.
They include an $8-million scholarship program for part-time students; a $1-million merit-scholarship program to encourage exceptional students to study in Pennsylvania; a $1-million "Chairs of Excellence" program at state universities; and a $2.5-million deferred-maintenance matching-program for the state university system.
Gov. Lamar Alexander, who re-leased his budget for fiscal 1986 late last month, has called for $1.26 billion for K-12 programs, out of a $4.4-billion general-fund budget.
The Governor's proposals would increase funding for education by 6 percent over 1985 levels.
Governor Alexander also requested a $30-million supplemental budget for fiscal 1985, which includes $12 million to enhance the state's career-ladder program. Half of that amount would be used to provide salary increases for teachers who choose to enter "level one" of the program.
Some 95 percent of eligible teachers--15 percent more than anticipated--have applied to enter the first stage on the ladder, which entitles them to an additional $1,000. The other $6 million would be used to pay the extra salaries of teachers who "fast track" to levels two and three on the ladder and to train 50 more evaluators.
The week before he released his budget, the Governor presented his fourth annual "state-of-education" address to the Tennessee Press Association.
He said the "Better Schools Program" enacted by the legislature last year, which was designed to improve academic performance and decrease the dropout rate in the public schools, would be effective only if parents and communities rallied around their schools, issued an annual "report card" on their performance, and demanded that the new reforms work.
The Governor said he intends to visit each of Tennessee's 142 school districts and meet with citizens' task forces to see how schools are setting and meeting their improvement goals.
The legislature, he said, must find a way to replace the $250 million in funds for schools and colleges that were lost as a result of its vote last year to phase out the 5.5-percent sales tax on food.
If the state gives up the sales tax, it must find some new source of revenue, such as an income tax, to pay for the Better Schools Program, according to John Parish, a spokesman for the Governor.
Coordinated by Assistant Editor Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Linda Chion-Kenney, Lynn Olson, Sheppard Ranbom, Alina Tugend, and Correspondent Don Sevener.
Vol. 04, Issue 21