Carruthers Plan Would Pay Tuitions for Some Top-Ranking Graduates

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New Mexico's top high-school graduates from middle- and low-income families would have their college tuition and fees paid for by the state under a proposal by Gov. Garrey Carruthers.

Mr. Carruthers unveiled the merit-scholarship plan in his State of the State Message last week and suggested several other education initiatives in a separate document outlining his policy objectives for the 1989 legislative session.

His proposals include a 4 percent pay raise for teachers, which would be funded in part by rolling back class-size limits called for in the state's 1986 reform law; greater parental choice in school selection; cash rewards for high-achieving schools; and a local-option property tax for district operating expenses.

Mr. Carruthers requested $600,000 to implement his proposed New Mexico Scholars Program, which would be open to students from families with annual incomes below $30,000.

Students would have to receive a score of 25 or higher on the American College Testing program or graduate in the top 5 percent of their class to be eligible for the scholarships. They would cover the cost of tuition, fees, and books at any public college or university in the state.

In his annual address, Mr. Carruthers requested legislation that would allow the state to use anticipated surplus revenues to finance part of his proposed pay raise for teachers.

"I have, by statute, limited my budget proposal to the basic essenfor operating our government," he said. "But this leaves a considerable amount of money on the table."

The Governor also suggested that the raises could be funded by repealing a provision of the 1986 reform law that requires class-size reductions in kindergarten and the 1st grade.

According to Marliss Mann, the Governor's education adviser, the reductions in staff-to-pupil ratios have been achieved primarily by placing teaching assistants in classrooms. She said Mr. Carruthers believes that state funds would be better used to raise teacher pay than to hire more aides.

Mr. Carruthers also proposed:

Legislation that would allow parents to enroll their children in any public school in the state.

Mr. Carruthers did not mention the issue in his speech to the legislature and has not yet offered a fully developed proposal.

"A lot of it is done already on an optional basis by school districts," said Ms. Mann. "Our main goal is to encourage more active parent participation at the local level."

Cash bonuses for the 50 schools in the state that demonstrate the most improvement in their attendance, dropout, and college-going rates and on other measures.

Giving districts the option of levying a local property tax to cover operating expenses.

New Mexico districts currently can levy such taxes for capital improvements only. All other school aid is distributed by the state through an equalization formula.

"We are supporting a local-option tax to raise up to about a 4-mill tax," Ms. Mann said. The new law, she added, would include provisions that would prevent the local taxes from contributing to wide spending disparities among districts.

The establishment of "drug-free" zones around schools, and denial of driver's licenses to teenagers convicted on drug charges.--mw
Gov. Rose Mofford has told Arizona lawmakers that they will have to raise taxes by $255 million this year to avoid "disabling" reductions in education and other state services.

In her first State of the State Message since she succeeded Evan Mecham, who was impeached last year, Ms. Mofford said she would request $1.33 billion in state school aid in the new fiscal year, an increase of nearly 16 percent over the current $1.15-billion spending level.

Ms. Mofford's budget calls for new programs to address the problems of pregnant teenagers and other "at risk" children. And it seeks additional funds to extend the school year for handicapped students and to expand inspections of day-care centers. It also includes $4 million for a new adult-literacy initiative.

Ms. Mofford defended the need for the huge tax increase, saying previous legislatures and governors had caused the state's fiscal problems by cutting taxes while taking on additional funding responsibilities.

"We now find ourselves at a crossroads because of the actions of the past decade," she said. "It is time to talk about choices--choices that will define the quality of life in Arizona for years to come."

About $125 million of the $255 million in proposed new revenues would be raised by forcing 14 school districts that have high property values and low enrollments to impose a minimum local property tax.

In her speech, Mr. Mofford noted that one of these districts receives no state aid, but because it is home to a large and expensive nuclear-power plant, it can cover all of its expenses by levying a property tax of only 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Under her plan, the 14 districts would be required to levy a tax of $4.72 per $100 of assessed valuation. Revenues collected in excesss of the districts' needs would be recaptured by the state, placed in the general-fund budget, and eventually recycled to less-affluent districts through the school-funding formula.

Mr. Mofford also proposed raising the separate state property tax, which supports the general fund, from 47 cents to 77 cents per $100 of assessed value; increasing taxes on beer, cigarettes, and mineral production; and eliminating an income-tax exemption for companies that sell more than 80 percent of their Products outside the country.

Bev Hermon, chairman of the House education committee, said lawmakers would examine these proposals, as well as other fiscal measures, during a special session on tax issues next fall.--ef

Colorado's governor has called for the creation of up to 20 "educational creativity schools," which would be freed from compliance with state regulations in order to experiment with new forms of organization.

"This effort is designed to enable the state's schools and communities to structure the educational experience as they want to structure it, rather than having it structured for them," Gov. Roy Romer said at a press conference last week on his education agenda for the year.

Under the Governor's proposal, school-based groups made up of parents, teachers, and administrators will be invited to submit restructuring proposals to the state. The plans, which must be endorsed by two-thirds of the school community, also must cite which state barriers stand in the way of local reform efforts.

According to the Governor, possible reform ideas might include keeping elementary-school students with the same teachers for two or three grades, or combining two or more related high-school courses into a longer, interdisciplinary course of study.

The 10 to 20 winning applicants, to be announced in June, would each receive a $5,000 grant. The applications will be judged by a panel that will include teachers, administrators, school-board members, parents, and representatives from the governor's office.

The Governor's announcement drew broad support from a variety of business and education groups in the state.

Deborah Fallin, spokesman for the Colorado Education Association, said the union supports the proposal because "it speaks to the fact that teachers are part of the reform process."

"A school-building community will come up with what they think will work," she said. "That helps empower teachers and involves them in the process."

Some educators, however, expressed concern that the May 1 application deadline would not permit a substantive local discussion of school-restructuring issues.

"Decentralized decisionmaking takes time," said Jan Erskine, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. "It take time for all the parties to get together and reach agreement."--mw

Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri used his annual address to lawmakers to announce the formation of a task force to examine management problems in the Kansas City school district.

The study group will be headed by Robert E. Bartman, the state commissioner of education, and will include members of the legislature as well as representatives from the city. The Governor asked it to submit its recommendations within 45 days.

For several years, the state has been contesting court orders requiring it to pay most of the $100-million annual cost of the district's desegregation program.

Mr. Ashcroft said that despite such aid and the fact that the district has one of the highest levels of per-pupil expenditure in the state, its students "are without textbooks, busses don't get to school on time, and teachers aren't hired in time for classes to start."

The Governor detailed these concerns in a separate report released last week that draws its information from press accounts and citizen complaints.

The district's leadership "has fallen victim to the disastrous, debilitating delusion that we can buy our way to excellence in education,'' the Governor said. "We can only work our way to excellence."

In his address, Mr. Ashcroft also proposed that the state fund at least half the cost of local career-ladder plans for teachers.

The proposal is designed to encourage relatively wealthy districts to adopt career-ladder plans, according to Tom L. Duncan, Mr. Ashcroft's assistant for education and policy management.

Under current law, he said, less-wealthy districts can be reimbursed for up to 90 percent of the costs of a career ladder, while more wealthy districts have been able to recover a maximum of 35 percent of the cost of such plans.

Some 130 of the state's 545 districts currently have career ladders, which provide salary increases to teachers based on both classroom evaluations and their willingness to assume additional duties.

In his speech, the Governor also asked the legislature to "focus even more intensely on the underachieving students in our schools." He proposed, for example, that the state require districts to provide it with the names and addresses of dropouts to enable state officials to contact them and encourage them to return to school.--ws

Vol. 08, Issue 18

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