Lawmakers Fuel Reform Drive With Tax Bills, Major Policy Moves
Alaska's 1984 legislature sought to clarify the relationship between state and private schools and to bring the state's special-education legislation in line with federal regulations.
Lawmakers also passed a $2.3-billion state budget for fiscal 1985, appropriating $720.7 million for education, approximately 3 percent to 4 percent more than last year, according to Steven Hole, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Education.
During their half-year session, the lawmakers voted to deregulate all private schools that receive no federal or state aid and choose to comply with certain "housekeeping" requirements, Mr. Hole said.
The state will have no jurisdiction over such schools if they agree to abide by such measures as standardized testing in certain grades and keeping specific records connected with student achievement, he said.
The legislature also revamped laws concerning special education, bringing state legislation into line with federal regulations.
"Our special-education statutes3pre-dated 1974," Mr. Hole said. "Therefore, the changes in the legislation were dramatic, but the effect was practically nil because we were doing what federal law required anyway."
When lawmakers reconvene in January, Mr. Hole said, they are scheduled to work on restructuring Alaska's education-finance system.
California's public schools, after a year-long holdout by Gov. George Deukmejian, have received the full funding necessary to finance the second installment of the state's ambitious education-reform efforts.
In approving the state's 1984-85 budget this summer, the Governor provided $13 billion for school districts--up $1.7 billion in state and local tax funds, approximately 12 percent--from last year.
The state's education-reform effort began last year with the Hughes-Hart Educational Reform Act of 1983, which allocated an additional $880 million for K-12 education in 1983-84; it also imposed minimum statewide high-school graduation requirements, authorized state funding for high-school textbooks for the first time, established a "mentor" program to give extra pay to outstanding teachers for undertaking additional duties, and boosted salaries for entry-level teachers.
But the Governor vetoed the $1.9 billion in the reform bill that had been proposed for 1984-85. The second-stage funding was to have carried forward the $880 million and, in addition, to fund a 5.9-percent cost-of-living (cola) adjustment and other reforms--including $256 million for a longer school day and year.
In the 1984-85 state budget that Governor Deukmejian submitted last January, he proposed funding the second-year reforms fully but paring the cola to 3 percent.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, reflecting the widespread opposition of local school officials to the low cola allowance, said that some declining-enrollment school districts would get less than 3 percent and would have to make cuts. The 3 percent would "allow nothing" for increases in the average $24,000-a-year salaries of the state's teachers, he said, and would "do more to frustrate the reform efforts."
Also included in the approved budget are funds for such second-year reforms as summer-school programs in mathematics, science, and other "critical" academic areas; for mini-grants of up to $2,000 to teachers for projects to improve classroom instruction; and for another 10-percent increase in starting teachers' salaries, bringing them closer to the third-year target of $18,000 annually.
The Delaware legislature passed education reforms totaling $15 mil-lion in its 1984 session, including bills to make kindergarten mandatory and to reduce the financial disparity between school districts.
Delaware's total education budget for 1984-85 was $272.6 million, up from $247.3 million for the last fiscal year.
The kindergarten bill, enacted in June, applies to all children over the age of 5, including those who would be enrolled in parochial schools, according to Patricia LeVan, special assistant for education to Gov. Pierre S. du Pont 4th.
At least 200 of the state's 6,000-7,000 kindergarten-age children did not attend kindergarten according to a 1984 state survey, Ms. LeVan said. Under the new law, if a private school does not have a kindergarten program, children who would have attended that school would be required to attend a public-school kindergarten program. Some $370,000 will be channeled to that program.
"Most of the children who did not attend kindergarten are economically disadvantaged," said Doug Rothwell, Governor du Pont's assistant for policy and administration. "We felt they were disadvantaged anyway, and then by not attending kindergarten, they were at even more of a disadvantage going into 1st grade."
The legislature also passed a funding-equalization bill that changes the distribution formula for state aid to school districts. Under the terms of the bill, a maximum of $13 million over a three-year period will go to supplement the budgets of less wealthy school districts, according to Ms. LeVan.
The legislature also appropriated $1.2 million for reducing class sizes in the 1st through 3rd grades. Guidelines on appropriate class sizes have not yet been determined, Ms. LeVan said.
In a special session on Aug. 2, the legislature appropriated $150,000 for a study of career-ladder plans for teachers; the study is scheduled to be completed by next January. Delaware does not now have career-ladder plans in effect in its school districts.
The legislature also established a steering committee to study the feasibility of establishing statewide mastery tests in all subjects required for high-school graduation. The committee is to report to the legislature next January; no funds were earmarked for its work.
Other education legislation included an appropriation of $800,000 to double the size of a state remedial-education program and the same amount for the expansion of a statewide computer-literacy program.
Florida lawmakers approved and Gov. Robert Graham signed into law a $4-billion education budget that includes funding for a merit-pay program and a longer school day.
Lawmakers approved $30 million for merit pay for teachers, one-third of which is for a statewide career-ladder plan and the remainder of which is to be divided among school districts that devise local merit-pay systems with their teachers' union. Districts wishing a share of that money must offer awards to both individual teachers and schools as a whole whose students show significant academic improvement. (See related story on Page 20.)
In addition, legislators earmarked $67 million for school districts to extend their school day. Although the program is optional, lawmakers promised $113 per student for districts that offer six 60-minute periods, and $163 per student for districts that offer seven 50-minute periods. Most urban districts have opted for seven periods.
In a session that ended in June, the 1984 legislature also passed measures designed to improve the quality of instructional materials, further restrict low-achieving students from participating in extracurricular activities, and strengthen course requirements in grades 4 through 8.
Another bill passed by the legislature mandates that remedial courses in high school be taken only as electives, not as substitutes for required mathematics, language, or science courses.
The legislature also required the immediate expulsion of any student convicted of a felony, even if the crime occurred after school or off-campus.
And in a move designed to provide more individual attention for students, the legislature passed a measure that gives the state's 67 school districts one year to begin teacher-advisor programs in which each student is guaranteed at least 30 minutes of one-to-one guidance every six weeks.
The Illinois General Assembly this summer passed, and Gov. James R. Thompson approved, a $2.25-billion budget for public schools in fiscal 1985, an increase of $76 million over last year's spending on educational programs.
The appropriation, which represented a 5-percent increase in state support over 1984, fell far short of the 14.8 percent or $285 million in new state spending sought by the State Board of Education. But it also nearly tripled the $27 million in new money Governor Thompson allocated for elementary and secondary education in his March budget message to legislators.
Governor Thompson has promised to boost school funding by $250 million over three years if education officials can devise a substantive reform program to earn the dollars. Efforts to craft a reform plan for this year were abandoned when the Governor rejected a move to extend a temporary income-tax hike that expired July 1.
Also sent to the Governor was legislation directing public and private schools to take steps to remove or control the hazard of asbestos in their buildings. Funding for the effort was postponed until a study by the State Department of Public Health can provide a clear estimate of the extent of the problem and the amount of money needed to rectify it.
The lawmakers also approved a $50,000 appropriation for a study of the high dropout rate among Hispanic students in the Chicago public schools.
Among proposals that were not approved by the legislature was a plan offered by State Superintendent Donald G. Gill to expand an embryonic master-teacher program and to substantially increase the pay for beginning teachers; both proposals had been rejected by the state board before they were introduced in the legislative session.
In approving Gov. Edwin W. Edwards's $20-million education package this summer, Louisiana legislators voted to raise teachers' salaries but to phase out the state's $92-million Professional Improvement Plan System (pips) by 1989.
Lawmakers set Louisiana's total schools appropriation for fiscal 1985 at $1.01 billion, or 27.4 percent of the state's $3.7-billion budget. That figure represents an increase over last year's public-school appropriation of $33 million, but a 1.1-percent decrease in the proportion of state support for education from last year, according to Robert D. Harper, a senior budget analyst with the state.
Although the legislators did not approve the Governor's request that they set salaries for beginning teachers at $17,000 and place them on a career track leading to salaries as high as $30,000, they did approve a corporate franchise tax that will provide $80 million to raise the salaries of all teachers by 7 percent effective Sept. 1, according to Mona Davis, the Governor's education advisor.
The lawmakers also approved the formation of a career-ladder commission that is to develop a differential-pay plan for teachers for the legislature's April 1985 session, according to Ms. Davis.
But because they will now consider new possibilities for a performance-based pay system, Ms. Davis said, legislators voted to phase out pips, a three-year-old career-development program under which teachers receive college credit on a tuition-exempt basis for taking inservice courses and earn additional salary increments for participation.
"We cannot have our pips program continuing at the same time [as] a career-ladder program," Ms. Davis said. She added that the state could not afford to continue supporting the program anyway. Under the bill, the program was closed to new participants on June 30.
Following the state Senate's move in May to repeal a 1981 law requiring the teaching of creationism, the full legislature voted in June not to repeal the law. A ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on whether the statute violates the constitutional separation of church and state is expected by the end of the year. (See Education Week, May 30, 1984.)
The legislature also voted to require that all school districts provide at least half-day kindergartens; that the parents of middle- and high-school students sign their course-registration forms to keep abreast of their education; and that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education develop guidelines in the next year on student eligibility for participation in extracurricular activities.
In addition, the legislature approved the establishment of an aptitude test for education-school students for use by college deans in providing career counseling for the students; forgiveable student loans for those who pursue a teaching career in Louisiana; the creation of a commission to design an internship program for new teachers; and the establishment of pilot writing projects for grades 7 through 12.
The Michigan Legislature approved a $1.6-billion school-aid program for the 1984-85 school year, nearly 12 percent more than current spending levels and $63 million more than the sum requested by Gov. James Blanchard.
With the passage of the current budget, Michigan becomes one of the first states to offer financial incentives for school improvement, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Phillip Runkel.
The largest incentive program, totalling $28 per pupil or $36 million if all eligible districts qualify, would go to districts that provide all of the following for students in grades 9 through 12:
Six 50-minute class periods or a total of 300 minutes of classroom instruction per day.
Four years of English, three of mathematics, science, and social studies.
Two years of any combination of foreign language, fine or performing arts, vocational education, or practical arts; and one year of health or physical education or both.
One semester of computer education for high-school students, starting in the 1985-86 school year.
Mr. Runkel said many Michigan high schools have been forced to reduce their number of classes from six to five during the last three years because of budget cutbacks; the incentive grants are intended to help them restore the six-period day.
The legislature also voted to appropriate $3 million for incentive grants for school districts that create programs for gifted and talented students. Under the measure, a school district could receive $35 per pupil for up to 5 percent of its student enrollment.
The Mississippi Legislature wrapped up a three-day special session at the end of June by agreeing to continue to finance the state's landmark Education Reform Act of 1982 past its initial expiration date of July 1984.
The 1982 reform act, which was passed by the legislature in December of 1982, mandated, among other things, that all of the state's school districts establish kindergarten programs by 1986 and that all 1st-,and 3rd-grade classes have assistant teachers by the 1986-87 school year to give students reading and mathematics training.
To fund those and other mandated programs, a special session of the legislature in December 1982 raised the state's sales tax from 5 percent to 5.5 percent, according to Elizabeth Peeler, the Governor's education advisor. A subsequent special session in November 1983 raised the sales tax another half-percent to 6 percent through July 1, 1984.
Because predictions of an economic recovery in the state were premature, Ms. Peeler said, the legislature this summer agreed to extend the 6-percent tax indefinitely. That continuation is expected to generate $57 million for education, she said.
New York legislators have approved a budget authorizing the state to spend more than $5.3 billion on elementary and secondary education in 1984-85, a record increase in aid for schools of $460 million.
As a result, state aid will cover approximately 40.5 percent of the estimated $13.1 billion it will take to operate the state's public schools this year.
According to Cornelius J. Foley, the assistant secretary for education to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the highlights of the legislature's budget action include:
A new $28-million program to improve student attendance and retention.
A $15-million increase in textbook aid, which is now up to $78 million, allowing the state to reimburse local school districts for textbook purchases up to $25 per student per year.
A new $8-million program that will make money available to local school districts for computer-software purchases.
A new $10-million program that will reimburse local school districts for purchases of computer hardware.
An increase of $6.5 million for inner-city schools to design attractive and educationally enriched magnet-school programs. The increase doubles the aid for such programs to $13.5 million.
Also included in the budget, Mr. Foley said, is a $2-million allocation for the Empire State Mathematics and Science Teacher Scholarships. A total of 312 scholarships--up to a maximum of $3,000 each--will be available on a competitive basis to students studying in New York State colleges or universities to become mathematics or science teachers.
In addition, 400 fellowships, including 200 full-time fellowships--offering up to $4,000 each--will be available for the retraining of teachers whose positions have been abolished because of a decline in student enrollment. The teachers must have a B.A. degree in math or science but be ineligible for certification.
On July 23, the Governor signed legislation that would provide $300,000 in grants to offset initial start-up expenses for schools that provide child-care programs during nonschool hours.
The North Carolina Legislature in June passed a $280.8-million education-reform package that has been one of Gov. James B. Hunt Jr.'s central initiatives during his eight years in office.
The package, which took effect July 1, is "one of the largest in the history of the state," according to Larry Poore, the governor's education advisor. It contained 34 separate education measures that were supported by Governor Hunt and recommended by the State Commission on Education for Economic Growth. That panel of education, legislative, and business leaders was appointed by the Governor last November to make recommendations for improving the state's schools.
The largest budgeted item was a 14.8-percent salary increase for teachers at a cost of $196.6 million. The package also called for a reduction in class size in grades 4 through 6 from 30 to 26 children per teacher at a cost of nearly $32 million, and a re-allocation of teachers to meet an increase in the student population of about 10,000 pupils, at a cost of $6.5 million.
No new taxes were required to pay for the measures, according to Mr. Poore. Revenue for the reforms came from a $600-million state surplus and a surge in the state's economic growth in the past fiscal year, he said.
The legislature also mandated that children in grades 3, 6, and 9 pass a statewide achievement test to be promoted to the next grade. Children who fail the exam will have to attend summer school to gain promotion. The state's annual-testing commission and its competency-testing commission have been mandated to develop the tests at the earliest possible date. The state has required a competency test for graduation from high school since 1979.
The legislature also passed a measure, effective July 1, 1986, mandating that teachers in the state will no longer receive an automatic salary increase for each additional year's teaching experience without first accepting additional responsibilities.
The legislature approved a $1.17-million, 12-month employment program for 700 science and mathematics teachers (one each from every high school in the state) to enable them to teach summer school or to participate in other curriculum-related activities.
And lawmakers authorized a $400,000 scholarship-loan program to recruit top college students into the education field by providing them with up to $8,000 in scholarship money per year that does not have to be repaid if the student is employed as a public-school teacher in North Carolina upon graduation.
Other appropriations included a second year's funding for two pilot programs in local school districts to test an extended-year, extended-day program, and money for additional programs for exceptional children and for upgraded vocational-education equipment for grades 7 through 12.
The Oklahoma legislature, in a session that ended in June, took the first step toward requiring all elementary- and secondary-school students to be tested at key points in their school careers.
The School Testing Act passed by lawmakers requires the Oklahoma Board of Education to develop a testing plan and present it to the legislature and Gov. George Nigh in January for funding and implementation.
"The purpose of the testing program is to diagnose particular problems of individual students," said Carolyn Smith, Governor Nigh's senior administrative assistant for education.
"The test scores will be aggregated by the state board of education to monitor the effectiveness of schools or districts," she said. "The tests will not be used to stigmatize students or to hold them back.''
The legislature also voted to increase the ceiling on the allowable local tax levy to support vocational education, and to put before the public in November a vote on whether to raise the ceiling for elementary and secondary education.
In its fiscal 1985 budget, the legislature approved an appropriation of $711 million for precollegiate education, which is approximately 60 percent of the cost of operating Oklahoma schools, Ms. Smith said.
In January, faced with balancing the budget for fiscal 1984, the legislature cut the education budget for elementary and secondary education by 6.9 percent, or $49.5 million, Ms. Smith said. The new budget, she added, restores $26.9 million of the cut.
The restoration was made possible when the legislature voted, for the first time since 1972, to raise taxes. In effect, Ms. Smith said, the major tax package levies a 1-cent temporary sales-tax increase that ends in December 1985; increases the gasoline tax to 9 cents, a 2.47-cent increase; and removes sales-tax exemptions for cigarettes, liquor, and beer.
"The support for the entire tax-increase package was to avoid cuts in education services," Ms. Smith said. "That was how it was sold, that's how people bought it. That's why they supported it and that's why legislators supported it."
In June, Gov. Richard W. Riley of South Carolina approved a $218-million "Education Improvement Act" and a $74-million increase in the state's general-revenue funding for elementary and secondary education as part of a five-year plan to improve the state's public schools.
The improvement act, which passed in the General Assembly with minimal dissent, will be funded through a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, which is expected to bring in $195 million in the coming year, according to Greg Strasler, deputy director of the education division of the Governor's office.
The reforms will also be supported by a $17-million state surplus and $2 million in earnings from the state's interest fund in the first year.
Some $60 million of this money will be used to increase the average salary of South Carolina's teachers by 10.26 percent. The state will also spend approximately $60 million to provide remedial education for some 304,000 children in grades 1 through 12 who are expected to fail the state's basic-skills exams in the coming year, and $140,000 to develop a 10th-grade exit exam for high-school graduation. Another $60 million will be spent on capital improvements to local schools.
The reform package also provides $624,000 for state experiments over the next two years with career ladders and merit-pay systems for teachers in nine school districts, and $100,000 for the development of a program to reward schools and school districts for achievement gains, improved teacher and student attendance and parental participation, and other signs of reform.
An additional $1.25 million has been set aside for inservice workshops to help teachers and administrators apply the research on effective schools.
The reform package also mandates that school districts provide kindergarten or preschool programs for all 5-year-olds; calls for an increase in high-school graduation requirements from 18 to 20 units; and provides additional monies for vocational education, early-childhood education, programs for the gifted and talented, and education of the handicapped.
The legislature also mandated continued funding for the Partnership of Business, the Legislature, and the Public Schools, a task force created by Governor Riley last year, and the creation of a new division of public accountability within the state department of education to implement the reforms.
In July, at the close of a month-long special session called to consider education reform, Gov. Mark White of Texas signed a three-year $4.6-billion tax bill, $2.8 billion of which will go toward changes in the state's public-school system.
The Governor had requested in June that lawmakers approve $2.9 billion for school-improvement efforts in the special session. In May 1983, the legislature approved a $7.6-billion school budget at the close of its biennial session.
The "Educational Opportunity Act of 1984," signed into law on July 13, represents the first major increase in state taxes in 13 years, according to Brian Wilson, an education analyst in the Governor's office. The act includes many of the recommendations made this year by the Select Committee on Public Education, a gubernatorial reform group chaired by the industrialist H. Ross Perot.
The act, most of which will go into effect in September, mandates that each public-school teacher receive a starting salary of $15,200 and that experienced teachers receive at least a $1,700 yearly increase in their state-guaranteed salaries, Mr. Wilson said.
The legislation also attempts to provide greater equalization between Texas's wealthy and poor school districts. Under the act, revised formulas, based on weighted student counts, will increase school-program funding by $1.9 billion in the coming school year.
Over the next three years, state equalization aid is expected to exceed current levels by $635.7 million. The poorest districts will receive an average of $730 more for each student, according to Mr. Wilson.
One especially controversial measure in the law requires that, effective in January 1985, high-school students pass all courses with a grade of 70 to be eligible to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. Athletics officials across the state have indicated that the provision will be challenged in court.
The law also mandates that the 27-member State Board of Education be changed from an elected to an appointed body of 15 members for the next four years.
By June 1986, according to the law, current teachers must pass a one-time basic-skills and subject-area competency test, with preparation and remediation available. The law also requires that students take achievement tests every two years and that high-school seniors pass an exit examination.
Vol. 04, Issue 40 & 41