Education Bills Pass in New Mexico, South Dakota, Fail in Idaho
Following are summaries of how education measures fared in states that have concluded their current legislative sessions.
In Idaho, two major pieces of education legislation--a $10-million bill to pay for a career-ladder program and another $13.5-million proposal to bring teachers' salaries up to the 1982 national average--were defeated in the session that ended March 15.
Almost all of the state's 116 school districts had prepared career-ladder plans in anticipation of state support.
Education "didn't do too well" in the session, commented Helen J. Williams, public-information spe3cialist for the state department of education.
The legislature voted to provide elementary- and secondary-education programs with $304 million in fiscal 1986, an increase of about $18 million above last year's appropriation and $2 million below the department's proposal, Ms. Williams said.
The legislature, which has a strong Republican majority, made Idaho the 21st state to enact a "right-to-work" law. The law prohibits contract agreements that require employees, "as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to resign or refrain from voluntary membership in a labor organization [or] to become or remain a member of a labor organization."
Robert Dutton, associate state superintendent for finance and administration, said he is not aware of any teachers' union in the state that requires such a contract agreement.
In addition, the legislature adopted a child-abuse statute that makes failure to report suspected child abuse a misdemeanor and grants immunity from prosecution to individuals reporting abuse.
Because this legislative session was "dedicated to not raising taxes," Ms. Williams said, conservative lawmakers defeated a tuition tax-credit bill that would have cost the state up to $20 million, according to estimates by state education officials.
The legislature also shelved a controversial amendment to the state's compulsory-schooling law that would have eased requirements for parents who wish to educate their children at home.
The New Mexico legislature this month capped off its legislative session by adopting a bill that will provide $691.9 million for elementary and secondary education in fiscal 1986.
That figure is $7.7 million above the "austerity" budget proposed by Gov. Toney Anaya in January and $24.5 million above the legislature's 1985 appropriation.
The budget included a 2.5-percent increase in the average salary for teachers statewide and $100,000 to "plan and prepare" a public-school program for developmentally disabled 3- and 4-year-olds, according to state Senator Timothy Z. Jennings, a member of the Senate education committee.
The legislators amended the state's compulsory-schooling law to allow parents to teach their children at home and directed the state board of education to develop requirements for home schooling.
In addition, the legislature adopted bills that: require school-board elections every four years, rather than every six years, beginning in 1987; grant teachers immunity from lawsuits for reporting suspected child abuse; and require school districts to notify parents within one day if their child has been absent without an excuse for more than three consecutive days.
The legislature also voted to create a committee to study public-school reform, but the proposal was vetoed by Governor Anaya last month. Subsequently, the legislature instructed the state education department to study teacher preparation, teacher certification, and performance-pay plans and to report on those issues to the legislature during its next session.
Defeated by lawmakers were bills to provide an additional $5 million to "place greater emphasis on primary education" and to require school districts to provide a minimum of 180 days of schooling for children in grades K-12, Senator Jennings said.
The South Dakota legislature, ending its 1985 session early this month, approved, with some alterations, a comprehensive education-reform package proposed by Gov. William J. Janklow in a special education address in January.
According to Doug Decker, a lawyer for the legislative research council, lawmakers approved a $78.6-million appropriation for state aid to elementary and secondary schools, including money for the new proposals. This represents the full amount requested by the Governor and a $12.6-million increase over last year's appropriation of $66 million.
The legislature passed an 8-cent increase in the state's cigarette tax to help pay for the school improvements.
Among the major elements of the reform bill were a three-tiered teacher-certification plan; a "family option," or limited voucher, plan; expansion of the state's cooperative program, which encourages districts to share personnel and programs; mandatory kindergarten; and the3extension of the school year by five days for staff development.
The new three-tier certification plan introduces a one-year probationary license, a middle-level instructor certificate, and senior-teacher status, with salaries to be increased by an unspecified amount at each level.
A number of the Governor's proposals were altered in the final bill. The family-option plan was originally to have given the children in districts with high-school enrollments of 50 or fewer students the option of attending schools in neighboring districts, with the state paying tuition.
The revised plan gives the option to families in districts with fewer than 35 high-school students. Districts with 35 to 45 students must hold elections to determine whether or not citizens want to close their school. If they keep it open, the fam-ily-option plan nonetheless goes into effect.
The Governor's staff-development proposal was also amended, with $3.25 million appropriated for the program and payments to teachers to be calculated according to a formula, rather than at a flat rate of $75 per day. The approved plan also allows each district to schedule the staff-development days.
The legislature also approved an executive order issued by Governor Janklow in January to consolidate the state division of elementary and secondary education with the division of vocational education.
Legislation to set minimum salaries for teachers was voted down, and an attempt to mandate an open-admissions policy for the state's universities was not voted on.
Coordinated by Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Cindy Currence and Pamela Winston.
Vol. 04, Issue 27