Legislatures Wrap Up Sessions With Major Education Bills Tallied
While legislative sessions in many states are now in full swing, a few have concluded their current meetings. Following are summaries of key legislative developments in education in those states.
The Utah House of Representatives closed its session last week after doubling the amount of money available for the state's career-ladder program, from $18 million to $36 million.
Actions taken during the session will raise total state funding for the minimum school program from $712 million to $800.8 million, an increase of 12.4 percent. The value of the per-pupil unit will rise 5 percent, from $1,124 to $1,180. Some $23 million in new funds will accommodate enrollment growth in Utah, which has the fastest growing school population in the United States.
The legislature failed, however, to pass a bill that would have placed one student on every local school board and on the state board of education as nonvoting members who could not participate in executive sessions. The bill had sailed through the Senate.
The legislature also agreed to implement a new residency law allowing students from other states to attend Utah's public schools, provided they come into the state for reasons other than attending Utah schools. Such students will be eligible to attend if the adults they live with in the state inform the local school district that their home will be the child's permanent residence and that they will assume responsibility for the child.
Virginia legislators have increased state aid to education by $78.6 million, passed a law requiring the department of education to develop a readiness test for students who enter kindergarten before age 5, and approved $688,230 to continue a magnet-school program.
In the legislative session that ended late last month, lawmakers also appropriated $90,000 for a pilot dropout-prevention program and $109,270 to establish a model elementary school to develop programs other schools could replicate.
According to Cecil F. Carter, deputy secretary of education, the legislature also included language in the appropriations act instructing the department of education to develop a proposal to establish and fund an elementary-school guidance-counseling program. The proposal, he said, will be presented to the legislature next January for inclusion in the 1986-88 budget.
Before the legislators adjourned, they approved a $76.8-million bud-get amendment that increases state aid to public education from $1.65-billion to $1.728 billion, said Myron E. Cale, associate superintendent for financial and administrative services.
The legislature also voted to increase the per-pupil cost for the 1985-86 school year from the $1,776 appropriated last year to $1,901. This year's per-pupil cost is $1,605. The lawmakers voted to increase the number of instructional personnel per 1,000 students from 55 to 57.
According to Mr. Cale, the increase will enable the state to pay 91 percent of its share--up from 84.3 percent this year--of the "Standards of Quality," a set of consitutionally mandated minimum standards that all school districts are required to meet. The state's share is based on an equalized funding formula that takes into account a district's ability to pay its share.
The Wyoming legislature ended its 1985 session late last month after approving legislation that permits school districts to offer alternative scheduling and allows parents to educate their children at home.el10lLawmakers also voted to increase the level of state support for local districts and to provide scholarship aid for students planning to enter the teaching profession, according to the State Department of Education.
The lawmakers rejected bills endorsed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lynn Simons that would have provided grants for teachers to pursue "programs of excellence," and for districts to add inservice days as part of a school-improvement plan.
A School Foundation Program appropriation of $192.5 million was approved for the 1985-86 school year--$7 million more than lawmakers provided for the current school year, but $2.5 million less than Gov. Ed Herschler had requested.
The legislature also adjusted the method the state uses to recapture revenue from wealthy school districts and changed a formula used to determine average daily membership in the elementary grades.
The "classroom unit value," used to determine how much state aid a district receives, was inceased by $1,000, to $74,000. Both Governor Herschler and Ms. Simons had3sought the increase, which is expected to cost about $3 million.
The legislature provided $68,300 for forgivable loans to be awarded to 20 "superior" Wyoming students who plan to pursue a teaching career. Students can repay the loans by teaching in the state for three years.
The home-schooling bill legitimizes home education in the state for the first time. The law permits parents to teach their children at home after submitting to the local district a curriculum showing that the they intend to provide "fundamental, sequential instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, civics, history, literature, and science," according to the education department.
Under the alternative-scheduling bill, local districts can offer a longer school day and a four-day week if the schedule does not reduce the minimum number of hours students are currently required to be in school each year. (See Education Week, March 6, 1985.)
A bill was also approved that requires the University of Wyoming to weigh equally student scholastic-aptitude-test scores and grade-point averages when selecting scholarship recipients.