State News Roundup
Oklahoma citizens last week approved an initiative to change the state's budget-balancing formula that lawmakers say will ease a predicted $121-million budget shortfall.
According to a spokesman for Gov. George Nigh, initial results of the vote indicate that about two- thirds of the 600,000 people who voted favored the changed formula.
Prior to the adoption of State Question 587, a strict formula dictated how much money the legislature could appropriate. According to Representative Steve Lewis, the old budget formula gave too much weight to the state revenue of previous years and not enough weight to current economic indicators.
The revised formula is more flexible, according to state officials, and gives more weight to detailed estimates of expected revenue.
A report by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, released late last month, predicted a $121-million budget shortfall under the former funding formula.
The report said that if the budget fell short, state funding for school libraries, computer education, early-childhood programs, vocational education, and higher education would have to be cut.
Nearly half of California's 1,142 high schools have won cash prizes from the state because of their seniors' improved performance on the December 1984 statewide assessment exam, the department of education has announced.
Although California has had an assessment program for 10 years, this is the first year the state has rewarded schools for improving their scores. Funds for the Education Improvement Assessment Program were included in the omnibus education reform package the legislature passed in 1983.
"Money seems to talk everywhere else ... and sure enough it worked here," said William Burson, a consultant for the state education department.
A total of $14.4 million will be distributed to 530 schools in California, based in part on the degree of improvement and the number of students tested, Mr. Burson said. The schools receiving funds are required to set up committees of students, parents, and teachers to decide how to spend the state funds.
All schools administer the test, and all but five of the state's 382 districts participated in the program, Mr. Burson said. One school that did not participate, Live Oak High School of the Morgan Hill Unified School District, was mistakenly announced as having won $22,623; its officials refused the award.
"It's not that we don't need the money," said H. James Crow, the district's assistant superintendent. "We felt it was not an appropriate way to give attention to improved achievement."
Nine of California's largest teachers' unions, a group representing af-filiates of both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, plan to seek a tax-reform initiative "to secure adequate long-term funding" for public schools.
According to Wayne Johnson, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, the union leaders are in the process of writing the initiative and will work this year to gather the 700,000 signatures needed to put the proposal to a statewide vote in November 1986.
"We in California live hand-to-mouth," Mr. Johnson said, "and every year we go to the legislature and come back with the bare minimum--it's time now to build in a solid funding base."
In addition to Mr. Johnson, members of the coalition include union leaders from Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and San Juan.
In the face of mounting legal challenges to Texas's controversial "nopass, no play" rule, Gov. Mark White has reaffirmed his support for the law and predicted that suits challenging the rule will be short-lived because courts will be unwilling to interfere in the state's educational decisions.
The law, approved in a special legislative session last summer and effective this year, bars students from extracurricular participation for six weeks if they receive one failing grade.
"I believe in having strong extracurricular activities and athletic teams--that's important--but it doesn't do much for the country if the people we graduate from high school think 'hut' is the first integer of Arabic numerals," Governor White said in an address to the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association. "I'm going to continue to insist on a no-pass, no-play rule that's going to be the strongest in the nation."
Meanwhile, a state judge has granted a 10-day restraining order to permit students from the Spring Branch and Alief school districts who failed classes to participate in extracurricular activities. The suit, filed as a class action on behalf of 2,000 pupils who attend the two districts, names the districts as defendants for their part in enforcing the Texas Education Agency rule.
Anthony Sheppard, the lawyer for the students, contends that the rule, which was not officially adopted by the State Board of Education until March 15 and did not go into effect until April 5, unjustly penalizes students for their academic performance in the six-week grading period beginning Feb. 18.
The state attorney general is considering intervening on behalf of the tea in an attempt to dissolve the injunction, Mr. Sheppard said. If he does intervene, Mr. Sheppard said he plans to make the case a class action for all students in the state.
The Alabama Ethics Commission, a group of five private citizens appointed by the governor, has advised that legislators who teach in grades K-12 or who have spouses who do so should not be allowed to vote on a proposed career-ladder plan for teachers because they stand to gain financially.
According to Melvin G. Cooper, executive director for the commission, the ruling could jeopardize passage of the career-ladder plan, which would base teacher pay on performance evaluations, because at least 30 members of the 140-member legislature are educators.
But Rex Cheetam, education aide to Gov. George C. Wallace, said thatonly two state senators are teachers and that the nonbinding opinion will not affect the bill's passage. The House already has approved the plan, which is expected to cost some $700 million.
The ethics commission's opinion marks a change in its viewpoint. In 1982, the commission stated that teachers could vote on bills that would financially benefit them as long as the bills would financially benefit all teachers.
At the request of the Alabama Education Association, the commission has agreed to reconsider its opinion on June 7.
Connecticut should pay its teachers a minimum salary of $18,500 by 1986 and provide across-the-board pay increases for those above the minimum, according to a committee of the Governor's Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education.
According to Lise Heintz, public-information officer for the state department of education, the recommendations of the commission's finance and compensation committee are "more detailed than anything talked about in the past," and represent "the first ideas of the way the state may approach this issue."
The committee recommends that the state and local districts share the estimated $130-million cost of raising salaries, in part by increasing the state share of precollegiate-education costs from 40 to 50 percent, Ms. Heintz said. The state board of education has already recommended that percentage increase, she said.
The state would then distribute grants to districts in part on the basis of their ability to pay and on a comparison between their pay scales and a hypothetical state salary structure, she said. Districts could distribute the money as they wished, she said.
The full commission is expected to vote on the committee recommendation in May, Ms. Heintz said. The commission's recommendations would then be forwarded to Gov.3William A. O'Neill in June, for possible legislative action next year.
Governor O'Neill established the commission last August to investigate ways to improve education in the state.
Vocational educators have asked the Idaho Board of Education to allow two credits in the "practical to be substituted for the humanities credits in the new graduation requirements that will go into effect next year.
The new requirements, to affect the class of 1989, require that students earn 42 credits and have a C-average in a 14-credit academic core. Of those 42 credits, 4 must be in humanities courses, which include fine arts, foreign language, art, music, world religion, architecture, science, philosophy, or literature.
"We are not trying to say that vocational education is the same as the humanities, but that the humanities may not be appropriate for every student," according to Emma M. Gebo, chairman of the department of home economics and vocational teacher education at Idaho State University, and a member of the state vocational-technical education task force that proposed the changes.
The state board began hearing testimony on substituting prevocational, vocational, and consumer-homemaking courses for humanities credits last month and is expected to rule on the matter when it meets on May 16, according to education department officials.
In Inner-City Schools,
Vol. 04, Issue 33