Lawmakers in 3 States Approve School-Funding Bills
Following are summaries of how education measures fared in states that have concluded their current legislative sessions.
The Alabama legislature ended its 1985 session last month after passing a controversial bill that will implement a new career-ladder plan in the state. (See Education Week, May 22, 1985.)
The "Alabama Performance-Based Career Incentive Program Act" will raise teachers' salaries by between 5 and 15 percent in the next school year and will also provide performance-based pay incentives, said Richard L. McBride, director of legislative services for the state education department.
The plan creates five teaching levels based on a teacher's experience and performance, and establishes a "working committee" to develop a statewide system for evaluation. The first year of the plan is expected to cost about $150 million; implementation over the next five years will take about $700 million altogether, according to a spokesman in Gov. George C. Wallace's office.
The bill was supported by Governor Wallace, the education department, and the Alabama Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. But many legislators and the Alabama Association of School Boards objected to the plan on the grounds that it would cost too much and give teachers and their union too much control.
Lawmakers also approved about $1.2 billion in state aid for schools, an increase of $208 million over their appropriation for the previous year.
They also approved two child-welfare bills. One establishes a state-level bureau for missing children and requires that the department of public safety maintain an information center for missing children. It also requires the education department to distribute a list of missing children to the state's public schools each month.
Another measure requires that the department of public safety establish a computer system with in-formation about the records of indi-viduals in the state who have been convicted of sex-related crimes. And it requires public schools to check with the department to determine whether prospective paid or volunteer employees have previous sex-related crime records.
A bond-issue bill backed by Governor Wallace that would have provided schools with money for capital improvements did not reach the floor of either the House or the Senate, but there is speculation that the Governor may call a special session in August to consider it, Mr. McBride said. The latest version of the bond issue would provide about $135 million to elementary and secondary schools, he said.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a $5.6-billion general-fund budget for fiscal 1986 late last month, setting aside more than $1.25 billion for education--slightly less than the $1.26-billion allocation proposed by Gov. Lamar Alexander.
Both the total state budget and the appropriation for education were increased by 6 percent over levels for fiscal 1985.
The budget includes a 4-percent pay raise for the state's 44,000 teachers and an $11-million supplemental allocation for teachers' health benefits. Although teachers have traditionally been considered local employees, the state will now bear half the cost of their health insurance, according to Charles W. Cagle, executive assistant to the commissioner of education.
The legislature also set aside $1.6- million to pay for aides to relieve teachers of lunch-hour monitoring of students, and $4 million to hire guidance counselors for 1st- and 2nd-grade students.
Lawmakers allocated an additional $2.5 million for instructional supplies, $200,000 to offset maintenance costs, and $2.3 million for the permanent textbook fund. In addition, they made a special one-time appropriation of $2.5 million to help districts purchase new textbooks.
Most of the budget increases will be paid for by the state's estimated $108-million surplus, according to Mr. Cagle.
The Assembly also approved a supplemental appropriation of $12- million to provide increases for "an excess number" of teachers on the first step of the state's career ladder because officials had underestimated by 7,000 the number of teachers who would qualify for level-one certificates.
Lawmakers also approved a home-schooling bill that will require parents who teach their children at home to hold a bachelor's degree to teach grades 9-12 and a high-school diploma or ged certificate for grades K-8. (See Education Week, May 1 and 22, 1985.)
The Texas legislature recessed last month after protecting elementary and secondary education from cuts that affected all other state agencies.
The exemption ensures that the education reforms enacted in a special session last summer will continue to be carried out, according to Larry Yawn, education-policy adviser to Gov. Mark White.
Legislators appropriated $11.4 billion for elementary and secondary education for the 1985-87 biennium. In 1983, lawmakers had approved a $7.6-billion school budget for the 1983-85 biennium, which was supplemented by $2.8 billion appropriated in the special session.
The state's total biennial budget for 1985-87 is expected to be approximately $37.1 billion, a 14.3 percent increase over the last biennium's $32.4-billion budget, according to Jack Huffman, a spokesman for the state budget office.
In other action, the legislature passed a bill that requires districts to give teachers a 30-minute lunch period away from students; a bill that treats the employee-paid portion of public-school employees' benefits as a tax-sheltered provision; and a group health-insurance program for retired school employees, to be paid for by current employees and the state. All three pieces of legislation go into effect in September.
At the request of the state board of education, the legislature appropriated money for a basic-skills entry test that will be required for teacher certification beginning next spring, Mr. Yawn said. And it agreed to delay for at least two years the development of a similar subject-matter certification test that Governor White had recommended.
At the end of the legislature's session, Governor White called lawmakers back for a special session May 28-30. Education groups encouraged the Governor to add several unresolved education issues to the agenda, including bills that would increase the amount of money for, and the number of people eligible to take part in, the state's career-ladder program; limit the paperwork of public-school teachers; and change schools' suspension and expulsion procedures to tighten discipline.
Although the Governor did not add the items to the agenda, legislators did pass a resolution calling on the state board to find ways to reduce teachers' workload, Mr. Yawn said.
Coordinated by Anne Bridgman, with reporting by Sheppard Ranbom and Pamela Winston.
Vol. 04, Issue 37