Iowa Enacts School-Reform Measure; Education Aid Increased in Vermont
Following are summaries of how education measures fared in states that have concluded their current legislative sessions.
The Iowa Legislature ended its 1985 session early this month after approving several major pieces of education-related legislation, including a comprehensive reform bill.
The reform measure, which grew out of the October 1984 report of the legislature's task force on excellence in education, requires that the state board of public instruction begin to review current education standards by July 1, in consultation with parents, students, teachers, administrators, and others. The board must then adopt a revised set of state-mandated standards by 1987.
The measure specifies that the new standards must take into account a range of considerations, including the integration of new technologies in the curriculum, staff development and performance evaluation, uniform hours of academic instruction, and student discipline. School districts must comply with the new policies by July 1, 1989.
An amendment to the bill sets up an appeal process for parents who think their child is not receiving an "appropriate" instructional program. There was some concern that parents might "go wild" with this, said Carol M. Bradley, administrative consultant and legislative liaison for the Department of Public Instruction, but the bill was approved in its entirety.
Lawmakers also approved a projected $33-million increase in state aid to elementary and secondary education, bringing the projected total in state aid to schools to $740 million for 1985-86.
Another measure that came out of the 1984 legislative task force report mandates that the state board adopt a five-year plan for education in Iowa and issue annual progress reports, as of this July.
Lawmakers also approved a bill, which was promoted by the state's tourism industry, that requires schools to open no earlier than Sept. 1, beginning in 1986, Ms. Bradley said. (See Education Week, May 15, 1985.)
Other legislation enacted included: a measure that requires the state's teacher-training programs to include preparation for teaching6handicapped and gifted students, and a measure that requires the state board to formulate a staff-development program to be completed every five years by anyone holding certification as an administrator.
Legislators were also very concerned with the issue of rewriting the state's school-finance formula, Ms. Bradley said. Though nothing was passed this session, it is expected that a finance bill will be "a major piece of legislation" next session, she said.
A bill to restructure the teacher-certification system is still in the Senate Education Committee, Ms. Bradley said, but will be considered again next session.
Despite a lingering deficit, the Vermont legislature has approved an 11-percent increase in noncategorical state education aid for fiscal 1986, and has moved the state toward a 20-percent increase for the following year.
The 1986 increase raises state aid from $70.9 million in 1984-85 to $78.7 million, as Gov. Madeleine Kunin had requested, said Johninued on Page XX
Iowa Reform Plan, Vermont Funding Increase Enacted
Dooley, education aide to the Governor. Categorical aid and contributions to the state's teacher retirement system account for about another $40 million in state funds.
State aid in Vermont is paid out in two installments, in December and in May. Under the budget approved by the legislature, the first aid installment would increase by 5 percent, while the second would increase by 20 percent.
"It's a 20-percent increase six months delayed," Mr. Dooley said. And although the legislature took no action on the Governor's proposed fiscal 1987 budget, its actions on the fiscal 1986 budget represent "a commitment that the December 1986 check will be at least 20 percent over the December 1985 check," Mr. Dooley said.
The Governor had recommended a funding level of $89.4 million for 1986-87.
Governor Kunin did not fare as well in other areas related to education spending. The legislature scrapped a $5-million revenue-sharing program and a property-tax-deferral program for senior citizens, both of which Ms. Kunin had proposed.
Instead, according to Mr. Dooley, lawmakers appropriated about $3-million in additional funds for property-tax circuit breakers, which limit the amount of property taxes paid by low-income individuals.
The legislature also rejected the Governor's proposal to assess an 8-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes. It opted instead to eliminate the exemption of cigarettes from the 4-cent state sales tax, Mr. Dooley said.
The legislature also cut half of the $100,000 the Governor had requested for teacher inservice grants. But it did approve $500,000 in interest-free loans for districts mandated to provide full- or half-day-kindergarten programs.
Efforts to increase education aid beyond the levels the Governor requested were also defeated, according to Mr. Dooley.
Teachers and other educators had rallied at the Capitol earlier during the session in favor of a more than $100-million increase. But according to Mr. Dooley, "with a deficit of the size Vermont has, the legislature had no ability to respond" to their pleas.
The state began the fiscal year with a deficit of $36 million, Mr. Dooley said. Under the current budget, the deficit should fall to $19 million by June 30, and then to zero by June 1986, he said.
In other action, the legislature defeated efforts to revise the school foundation formula and voted down the city of Burlington's request for a meals and lodging tax to support education.
Coordinated by Anne Bridgman, with reporting by J.R. Sirkin and Pamela Winston.
Vol. 04, Issue 35