Bangerter Proposes Using Bulk of Surplus for Utah Schools
Utah should use the bulk of its sizable budget surplus for education, including a 6 percent raise for teachers, Gov. Norman H. Bangerter urged last week.
Teachers' union officials have warned, however, that an increase double that size may be needed to avert a strike in the coming months.
In his State of the State Message last week and in his proposed budget, Governor Bangerter said the surplus would allow increased funding for teachers' salaries and benefits, alleviate a textbook shortage, and provide more computers in classrooms.
Last fall, teachers staged a one-day strike after lawmakers voted during a special session to use a budget surplus for a tax cut and to wait until this year's regular session to address education-funding needs. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)
The Governor's budget, released last month, includes a 6 percent increase in teachers' salaries, health insurance, and other benefits.
"It is all I believe we can afford at this time," Mr. Bangerter told legislators last week. "If you can find additional money, I would like to see the compensation package increased."
The head of the state's National Education Association affiliate greeted the Governor's proposal with "guarded optimism."
"We are viewing it as a good foundation to begin with," said James Campbell, president of the Utah Education Association.
Educators are concerned, however, about a recent legislative analysis suggesting that revenues will be as much as $30 million below the level anticipated in the Governor's budget plan. The analysis indicated that officials may have miscalculated costs or are assuming the legislature will adopt certain revenue measures.
This would result in a compensation package for teachers of only 5 percent, Mr. Campbell said.
Amid the confusion, observers are hoping that tax figures to be released next month will show a larger-than-anticipated increase in revenues. Legislators have said they will use the bulk of any extra money to increase teacher salaries further.
"But that is iffy," Mr. Campbell said. "Right now the current package isn't enough to stop a strike."
"It has got to be more than a 5 or 6 percent compensation package," he added. "It has to be double that for teachers to feel good."
Mr. Bangerter's education initiatives for the new year include an increased focus on accountability.
"Utah needs to start immediately to participate in national and statewide assessment of student achievement," Mr. Bangerter said.
Under his plan, Utah would participate in the state-level National Assessment of Educational Progress and would develop a test based on the state's core curriculum to permit comparisons of districts and schools.
The Governor also suggested that the state adopt an alternative route to teacher certification.
Mr. Campbell argued, however, that there is no need for such a program in Utah because the state does not have a teacher shortage.
Hayden Seeks To Curb Property-Tax Collections
In his State of the State Address last week, Gov. Mike Hayden of Kansas made clear that property-tax relief would be his top priority this year.
Calling on the legislature to adopt a "Kansas Proposition 13"--named after the California law that permanently limited property-tax collections--Mr. Hayden said "1990 should be the year of the taxpayer in Kansas."
He also asked the legislature to adopt a two-year interim measure that would limit the amount of taxes that could be collected by cities, counties, and school districts to the amounts collected in 1989.
The measures, if adopted, could have a profound effect on Kansas schools, which rely on local property-taxes for about half of their funding. Currently, school districts are not allowed to impose any other sort of tax to pay for education.
The proposals come a year after Kansas homeowners and small businesses were hit with sharply higher taxes as a result of a state program of property classification and reevaluation. Under a 1986 constitutional amendment, the rates at which certain types of property were taxed were changed. And last year, for the first time in more than 20 years, property values were reappraised.
To soften the blow experienced by some taxpayers as a result of these changes, the Governor proposed that $70 million in relief be directed to homeowners and small businesses.
He also has said that the proposed amendment, which will have to be approved by the voters, would include a provision to revoke the 1986 classification program.
If the amendment is adopted, Mr. Hayden plans to appoint a task force to examine alternative sources of local funding for school districts and other entitities that levy taxes.
Aides to the Governor said he does not endorse any one particular taxation method. Last week, the Speaker of the House introduced legislation that would allow local governments to levy an income tax.--ef
Deukmejian Plan Aimed At School Crowding
As a part of an overall plan to help California cope with its unprecedented growth, Gov. George Deukmejian last week announced a proposal aimed at reducing school overcrowding.
In his State of the State Address, Mr. Deukmejian proposed a $1.6-billion bond measure for school construction. But he also said that he wanted the plan to be contingent on schools taking steps other than construction to relieve the problem.
"Currently, our school-age population is growing at a rate of 40 percent faster than our population as a whole," said Mr. Deukmejian. "With that kind of growth, we can't depend simply on building our way out of the shortage of classrooms, even though we have completed nearly 700 school-construction projects since 1983."
The Governor proposed providing financial incentives--including special per-pupil payments and "first call" on school-construction bond funds--to districts that adopt a year-round school schedule.
"It is simply inexcusable and wasteful to allow school facilities to sit idle and unused for up to three months per year," he said.
An incentive plan for longer school days and years was passed in 1983. Mr. Deukmejian wants the $43 million slated for that program in the new budget be set aside until the legislature revises the program.
Mr. Deukmejian also called for a constitutional amendment that would allow school boards to enact local bond measures for construction with a 60 percent majority of voters, rather than the two-thirds vote now required.
Mr. Deukmejian's address also included a request for $10 million to expand drug-education programs to every school for grades 4-8.--rrw
Shortfall Forces Mofford To Seek Cuts, Tax Hike
Faced with a $340-million budget deficit, Gov. Rose Mofford proposed in her State of the State Address last week that Arizona cut spending by $170 million and levy an equal amount in new taxes.
Also last week, Ms. Mofford called the legislature into a special session--to run concurrently with the regular session--to solve some of the state's long-term financial problems.
Regarding the more immediate fiscal problem, she proposed that fiscal 1991 budgets drafted for all departments, including education, be cut by 4.8 percent, for a total savings of $170 million.
Despite the $63-million cut, however, precollegiate-education funding in the budget released last week would actually rise, from $867.2 million in the current year to $900.3 million in 1991. The reduction was made in a sum already increased in order to adjust for inflation, enrollment changes, and other factors.
Governor Mofford proposed raising additional funds by: increasing taxes on the mining industry; eliminating the federal income-tax deduction for corporations; raising income taxes for families earning more than $75,000 a year; and increasing the tax on cigarettes by 10 cents a pack.
The projected deficit is the latest in a series of fiscal crises to hit the state. Last fall, a task force recommended an overhaul of the state's school-finance system as a way of averting a projected budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion by 2000. (See Education Week, Sept. 27, 1989.)
Recommendations made by the task force will be considered by the legislature during its special session.--ef
Blanchard Seeks Limits On Property Taxes
Gov. James J. Blanchard of Michigan called in his State of the State Address last week for more parental involvement in schools and limits on property-tax increases.
Mr. Blanchard also proposed establishing a new health-insurance program for children; raising the mandatory age for school attendance from 16 to 18 years; and expanding the state's preschool program.
One element of his efforts to promote parental involvement in schools, Mr. Blanchard said, would be a "model parental-leave policy for state employees to participate in school activities." He also urged businesses to adopt such policies.
The Governor's property-tax proposal comes two months after the state's voters spurned a plan to provide property-tax relief while raising the sales tax to boost education spending. Mr. Blanchard last week proposed to limit the increase in school taxes for homeowners to no more than the rate of inflation.
Mr. Blanchard also outlined a "Healthy Start" program, which would provide health care to children who are presently without insurance.
Uninsured children from families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for the new program, according to a spokesman for the Governor. The program is expected to cost about $13 million in its first year.
The Governor also promised to "provide new learning and teaching techniques and raise the professional status of teachers."
In addition, he said, a "Classrooms of Tomorrow" program would "bring more than 10,000 new computers to Michigan's classrooms in 1990."
Mr. Blanchard also proposed the creation of a new state department of children and families.--mn
Kunin Seeks New Taxes For Education Increase
Confronting a sluggish state economy and revenue shortfalls, Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin of Vermont has proposed increasing state taxes to generate funding for education while freezing spending for other programs.
In State of the State and budget messages this month, Governor Kunin called on lawmakers to exercise fiscal restraint in light of an expected annual growth rate of only 3.9 percent and a regional economy seen likely to remain sluggish for the next 18 months.
Ms. Kunin rejected several proposals for property-tax reform now before the legislature. "We simply can't afford them now," she said.
Under the budget plan, education would be one of the few areas of state government to receive additional funding. Ms. Kunin proposed a 1.5-cent temporary surcharge on the state income tax, with the goal of generating the $15 million needed to increase elementary- and secondary-school spending by 6 percent and higher-education spending by 7 percent.
The Governor also urged lawmakers to simplify the method for allocating state education funds. By combining teachers' retirement, special education, and state aid to education under one formula, she said, local budgets would be easier to understand and state aid would be given where it is most needed.
Ms. Kunin recommended that local regions be given the option of implementing room and meals taxes to generate property-tax relief. She also proposed that an existing state property-tax-relief program deduct rebates directly from current tax bills--instead of mailing them out up to a year later--so that state residents would be more aware of how much property-tax relief they now receive.
Ms. Kunin called on the state board of education to adopt an essential-skills curriculum for all grades and eliminate the general track.
Ms. Kunin also said she would appoint a team to design a new, integrated vocational- and technical-education system, to be housed within a single agency.--ps
Mickelson Seeks Raise For Lowest-Paid Teachers
Gov. George S. Mickelson last week told South Dakota lawmakers that he wants to use increases in sales-tax revenues earmarked for education to boost teacher salaries and fund several new initiatives.
In his State of the State Message, the Governor announced that the state had reaped $16.4 million in additional funding for education through economic growth and a budget formula that directs 56 cents of every sales-tax dollar to schools.
Mr. Mickelson proposed allocating $9.7 million of the new money to increase the salaries of South Dakota's teachers, who currently are the lowest paid in the nation.
The salary increase would bring the state's teachers to 48th place in the nation. The Governor said he would like to see them ranked 43rd, on par with South Dakota's ranking in statewide income.
Mr. Mickelson proposed spending $2.5 million more on special education and $1.5 million more on vocational programs. He also proposed setting aside $500,000 to help schools cope with growing enrollments, and the creation of a "school report card program."
The Governor also suggested that the $11.25 million that would result from collecting the state sales tax on a monthly, rather than bimonthly, basis be used to establish a trust fund to provide $1 million a year for programs for at-risk youth.--ps
Cowper Renews Call For Education Trust Fund
Gov. Steve Cowper of Alaska last week renewed his call for a endowment for education that would provide the state's schools with a stable source of revenue in the next century.
The Governor has been traveling the state in recent months to push the proposed education amendment to the state constitution, which would set aside some earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund for a savings account for education. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1989.)
In his State of the State Message last week, the Governor called for the amendment to be placed before voters in November.
"Some Alaskans are ambivalent about the education amendment," Mr. Cowper said. "For those who believe that the permanent fund should never be used for anything but dividends, I offer no rebuttal save the observation that those with different views should be allowed to express them at the ballot box."
Before Alaskans can vote on the issue, it must first win approval in the Republican-controlled Senate. The House backed the constitutional amendment last year.--mw
Ashcroft Stresses Choice, Performance Evaluations
Parental choice, performance-based school evaluations, and a longer school year were the key educational themes sounded by Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri in his State of the State Address last week.
Adoption of a school-choice proposal would give families a stronger role in the education of their children, Mr. Ashcroft argued.
"Because family support for education is the strongest single determinant of whether a child will succeed or fail in school," he said, "we should give families some choice in selecting the public school with which they choose to be in partnership."
The Governor also urged legislative backing for the state board of education's plan to base state classification of schools on performance.
"As long as we have seen the right number of books in the library and the right colors of chalk for the blackboard, we've given our triple-A stamp," Mr. Ashcroft said. "That won't be good enough for our students of the 1990's."
Mr. Ashcroft also asked the legislature to move ahead with a proposal by the board to increase the annual number of school days from 174 to 200 by the year 2000.--rrw
Vol. 09, Issue 17