Education Aid Trimmed by Legislators In Alaska but Increased in Arizona
Following are summaries of how education measures fared in states that have concluded their current legislative sessions.
Confronted with decreasing oil revenues, the Alaska legislature wrapped up its 1985 session this month by cutting the state's general-fund contribution to elementary and secondary education by about $2.5 million.
Legislators had approved an appropriation of about $567.9 million for elementary and secondary3schools in fiscal 1985, according to Mary Hakala, special assistant to the state commissioner of education. Only about $565.4 million was appropriated for fiscal 1986.
"There was disgruntlement in some quarters," Ms. Hakala said, "but all areas are feeling the pinch." Lawmakers also approved a measure that will suspend for one more year Alaska's foundation funding formula. The legislature suspended the use of the formula, which determines state aid to public schools, two years ago because of "perceived great inequity" in funding to dis6tricts, Ms. Hakala said.
The lawmakers also passed a bill that allows for the formation of two new "Regional Education Attendance Areas" in the state. reaa's are groups of villages that join to create an administrative body much like a district, but without the tax base districts normally have. The two new areas will comprise schools that were formerly under the jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ms. Hakala said.
Other legislation approved includes a measure that permits school districts to adjust the length of their school year by as much as 30 days for the purpose of asbestos abatement and assigns to the state education department the responsibility for record-keeping and other administrative duties associated with abatement. Another bill enacted will increase the state's contribution to school construction costs.
Arizona legislators this month set the state's budget for elementary and secondary education at $997.9 million for fiscal 1986, an $80-million increase over this year's budget.
About one quarter of the budget increase is due to the passage of an omnibus bill that primarily addressed school-finance issues.
The $21.8-million package included an "equalization" provision that will cost the state nearly $6 million. The provision requires each local government to provide no more and no less than $145 per pupil. Wealthy districts that typically provide more than $145 per student will be limited to that amount and poorer districts will be given additional state funds to supplement the local contribution.
Prior to the adoption of the equalization provision, local contributions varied from $8 to $181, according to James J. Brunstein, associate superintendent for the Arizona Department of Education.
The omnibus bill also mandated changes in the state's funding formula to provide school districts with additional money for "special academic assistance" to children in grades K-3. That program will cost $11.7 million.
In addition, the revised funding formula gives extra weight to small school districts and provides additional funding for the education of students who are "seriously emotionally handicapped."
The legislature also approved a bill to provide an additional $3 million to vocational-education programs for 11th- and 12th-grade students and to include in the education department's budget $1 million for "special assistance" to vocational education.
A $300,000 chemical-abuse-prevention program and the authorization of a special legislative committee to study the problem of teacher compensation were also approved.
The legislature defeated proposals to set an $18,000 minimum salary for teachers; to lengthen kindergarten programs; to give an income-tax credit to teachers who take computer classes; and to set a 30-minute, duty-free lunch period for teachers.
Coordinated by Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Cindy Currence and Pamela Winston.
Vol. 04, Issue 36