News in Brief
State aid to localities for education increased between 1982 and 1988, but shrank slightly as a percentage of total assistance to local governments, according to a new report by the National Association of State Budget Officers.
The study found that states provided about $89 billion for education in 1988, compared with $57 billion in 1982. That represents a nominal increase of 57 percent, and an inflation-adjusted rise of 31 percent.
But education's share of all restricted state aid to localities decreased from 72.5 percent in 1982 to 70.6 percent in 1988.
Copies of "State Aid to Local Governments 1989" are available for $25 each from the National Gover4nors' Association Publications Office, 444 North Capitol St., Suite 250, Washington, D.C. 20001.
Deep budget cuts in Massachusetts have resulted in the loss of almost 1,500 school programs and more than 2,600 staff positions, according to a survey released last month by the state education department.
The survey was based on responses from about two-thirds of the state's school districts, representing more than three-quarters of the school population.
The poll details reductions in elementary and secondary courses and programs, staffing, bus services, spending on capital improvements, and purchases of supplies. User fees for various services also became more widespread, the report says.
Since last spring, Massachusetts has repeatedly reduced its contributions to local governments because of a $1-billion revenue shortfall.
House Democrats in Florida have challenged the authority of Gov. Bob Martinez to veto certain budget items, including a $3.9-million children's program.
Mr. Martinez, a Republican, has constitutional authority for a line-item veto of spending approved by the legislature.
The Democrats allege in a lawsuit, however, that the Governor does not have the right to nullify expenditures within a given line item. In the case of the children's program, known as First Start, Mr. Martinez vetoed $3.9 million in funding for the overall program, but left intact a $100,000 appropriation for a Dade County children's program.
Private-school aid measures have been rejected in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
In Massachusetts, legislators meeting as a constitutional convention defeated a proposal to eliminate language in the state constitution banning state aid to private schools.
The convention would have had to pass the amendment twice to put it before the voters in 1992. Voters have defeated similar ballot questions two times in the past decade.
In New Hamphsire, the House education committee voted down a plan to allow towns to offer property-tax rebates to parents whose children attend private school.
Most telephone-paging devices would be banned from Pennsylvania schools, under a measure approved last month by the legislature.
The bill, which is aimed at youths who use the pagers to arrange drug deals, makes an exception for students who use the devices because they are members of volunteer fire and rescue squads or because they need to be available for a seriously ill family member.
The New Jersey legislatureshould act to curb local school districts' habit of accumulating "excessive" surplus funds, the Public Affairs Research Institute of New Jersey argues in a new report.
The institute, an affiliate of the New Jersey Taxpayers Association, charges that more than half of the state's districts have kept unnecessarily large "rainy day" surpluses of unappropriated funds.
While school-finance experts often recommend that districts maintain a surplus of up to 10 percent of their expense budgets--to help cover fluctuations in costs--the report contends that most New Jersey districts maintain surpluses above that level.
Surpluses above the recommended allowance totaled more than $112 million in 1986-87, the study found.
The institute called on the legislature to adopt a cap on the amount of surplus funds maintained by districts.