News In Brief
Montana's school superintendent has told lawmakers they probably will have to raise taxes in order to comply with the state supreme court's ruling declaring the current school-aid system unconstitutional.
In addition, Superintendent Nancy Keenan recommended in a Feb. 28 "state of education" address to the House that any attempt to revise the funding system should begin in fiscal 1991 and be phased in over five years.
Observers said leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate declined on partisan grounds to allow the school chief to address a joint session of the legislature. Ms. Keenan served as a Democratic member of the House for six years prior to her election as superintendent in November.
Despite the official rebuff, "an awful lot of senators came over to listen on their own," said Representative Ted Schye, chairman of the House education committee.
Ms. Keenan told the lawmakers her views reflect the education community's "consensus points" and would "fulfill the court's mandate."
"The politically easy way is not to raise any new taxes," she said. "But, let's be honest, we may have to raise some revenue."
Ms. Keenan also criticized Gov. Stanley Stephens's suggestion last month that the legislature first craft a new school-aid formula and then find ways to finance it.
It is "fiscally irresponsible to develop an equalization formula with4out knowing how much revenue will be needed to pay for it," she said.
Iowa Tax Breaks Cost
Less Than Predicted
A controversial Iowa law that provides parents with tax breaks for private or public-school expenses has cost the state less than half as much as expected in its first year, according to a recent report from the department of revenue and finance.
The state's costs could rise, however, as more parents become aware of the law, the department added in its report.
The measure, approved in the final hours of the 1987 legislative session, allows parents to deduct the cost of tuition and textbooks from their income, or to claim a tax credit for such costs.
The bill was patterned on a Minnesota law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983. Opponents of both laws argue that they disproportionately benefit parents with children in church-affiliated schools.
Iowa officials had predicted the credits and deductions would cost the state between $1.5 million and $2 million. But an analysis of 1987 income-tax returns put the total at about $677,000. Some 35,000 households took advantage of the law.
A New Jersey judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the New Jersey School Boards Association to force the legislature to fully fund the state's school-finance formula.
Judge Paul Levy ruled March 6 that the association's suit was premature because the legislature has yet to approve the fiscal 1990 budget for public schools.
Lawyers for the school-boards'8group were expected to file an appeal of the ruling last week, according to Frank Belluscio, the association's spokesman.
The group had asked the judge to order lawmakers to appropriate approximately $3.84 billion for state school aid, $235 million above the amount sought by Gov. Thomas H. Kean.
The Maryland Senate has defeated a bill that would have required student athletes to maintain a C average.
A Senate panel had killed the bill earlier this session. But its sponsor, Senator John C. Coolahan, used an unusual parliamentary maneuver to resurrect it on the chamber's floor.
Senator Coolahan noted that he had backed similar measures over the last three years in a "quiet and diplomatic" fashion. It is "time to be bombastic," he said of his decision to force a vote.
Observers noted that the Senate generally does not reverse committee decisions as a point of courtesy, and that some senators objected to challenging the autonomy of the state's 24 school districts.
Both finance committees of West Virginia's legislature have created special subcommittees to study the state's teacher-retirement system, which some officials predict will be bankrupt in 18 months.
In a related development, Gov. Gaston Caperton is expected to announce soon the creation of a bipartisan commission charged with finding a long-term solution to the fund's fiscal woes.
Delegate Rick Houvouras, chairman of the House panel, said his subel10lcommittee will examine the reasons for the system's $2-billion unfunded liability, and may recommend steps to prohibit the legislature from diverting funds from it.
Mr. Houvouras said the House and Senate panels will probably turn over their information to the gubernatorial commission after its members are appointed.
Seven of Maryland's rural school districts would share $1 million to establish computer laboratories, under a plan by Gov. William D. Schaefer.
Citing "growing evidence that computers in the classroom can have a dramatic effect on the educational process," Mr. Schaefer late last month requested the money as part of a supplementary budget request to the legislature.
Under the Governor's plan, districts would have to raise $300,000 in matching funds to receive the computers. Local officials would decide where to locate the labs.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers has voted to support Gov. Richard F. Celeste's controversial proposal to raise taxes to support education.
The endorsement by the state's second largest teachers' union represented a major victory for the Democratic Governor, whose plan has generated little support among educators.
Mr. Celeste has proposed increasing the state's corporate and income taxes 1 percent to raise an estimated $1.8 billion. The money would be used to create an "education excellence" trust fund controlled by an new, independent board of trustees. The changes would have to be approved by the state's voters.
The Ohio Education Association and some members of the state board of education have opposed the plan, arguing that the legislature should increase funding for education without putting the issue before voters.
Meanwhile, legislators continued to voice their opposition to the proposal.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Meshel criticized the tax increase last week, saying many other Senate Democrats share his sentiments.
Senate President Stanley Aronoff, a Republican, said he is developing alternative legislation that would increase funding for education by tapping existing revenue sources, rather than by raising taxes.
A legislative panel in Maryland has rebuffed Gov. William D. Schaefer's attempt to revamp the state board of education, a measure decried by some lawmakers as politically motivated.
The House constitutional and administrative law committee voted 11 to 9 last month to down the bill, which Mr. Schaefer's spokesmen said was designed to "diversify" the board's membership.
Under Mr. Schaefer's plan, the board would have been expanded from 9 to 13 members, and terms of office would have been trimmed from five years to four.
Some lawmakers said the bill, which also would have given Mr. Schaefer permission to pick the board's president, was prompted in reality by the Governor's displeasure at the board's choice of Joseph L. Shilling to succeed David W. Hornbeck as state superintendent.
The Senate economic and environmental affairs committee has heard, but not voted on, an identical measure.
Vol. 08, Issue 25