Georgia Governor Promises Four-Year Focus on Education

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Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia has vowed to make education reform the chief priority of his administration for the next four years. He proposed a big boost in teacher salaries, universal preschool for 4-year-olds, and requiring schools to issue a "warranty" on their graduates.

"A commitment to education runs deep in my soul," Mr. Miller said in his Jan. 12 State of the State address. "And I want to leave a long-term legacy that outlasts all the short-term political gains."

In a speech that was dominated by education issues, the Governor, who is beginning his second term, proposed:

  • Committing to a 6 percent increase in salaries for teachers and college instructors each year for the next four years, with the goal of raising the salaries of the state's teachers to the national average.
  • Requiring schools to issue to graduates "a two-year warranty on a basic standard of academic skills in reading, writing, and math."

"If an employer discovers that the graduate's skills do not live up to the warranty," Mr. Miller said, "then the employer can request additional education for the graduate at a technical institute at no cost to the graduate or the employer."

  • Expanding the popular HOPE scholarship program by removing income restrictions and allowing students who do not go right from high school to college the chance to meet its grade requirements in the first two years of college.

The Governor also proposed giving students at state colleges forgivable loans in exchange for promises to teach in public schools and providing scholarships for 1,000 teachers each year to pursue advanced degrees in areas in which the state is experiencing a teacher shortage.

  • Providing state-financed pre-school for all 4-year-olds, something Mr. Miller said no other state does.
  • Promising to pay fees for all teachers seeking national certification and offering those who achieve it a one-time, 5 percent salary increase, in addition to regular annual raises.
  • Providing grants to schools and communities to help plan and coordinate mentoring programs that pair adult volunteers with at-risk students in middle schools.
  • Revising a 1993 charter-school law to make it easier to start such schools. The Governor's proposal would require a majority vote of school personnel to apply for a charter, rather than two-thirds; extend the terms of a charter from three years to five; and give charter schools preference under certain grant programs.
  • Expanding existing programs supporting youth apprenticeships, summer tutoring, adult literacy, and alternative schools.

In a year when many governors are heeding voters' desire for smaller government and vowing to slash the size and clout of state education agencies, Mr. Miller balanced his proposals for ambitious new programs with a plea to "help Superintendent [Linda] Schrenko and me perform radical surgery on the education bureaucracy of this state."

Mr. Miller, a Democrat, may have been aiming to steal some thunder from Ms. Schrenko, who campaigned on the issue and became the state's first Republican schools chief since the Reconstruction era with her victory in the November elections. (See Education Week, 10/19/94.)

The Governor proposed moving $30 million "into the classroom" by changing state-aid rules to limit the number of central-office personnel a district can support with state funding. The money saved, he said, would be used to hire technology specialists and enough counselors to insure that every elementary school has one for each grade.

Mr. Miller also proposed expanding alternative-sentencing programs for juvenile offenders, barring people under age 18 from driving between 1 A.M. and 6 A.M., and requiring passengers in a car to wear seat belts when a minor is driving.


Symington Backs Private Management of Schools

Arizona's newly re-elected Republican Governor, Fife Symington, called for action on a variety of education fronts in his State of the State address, from toughening truancy laws to turning over the management of failing schools to private companies.

In Mr. Symington's Jan. 9 speech, he proposed turning over schools with chronically low student performance to private management companies for a limited time, eventually turning them back to public management. No such mechanism exists in the state, according to Mr. Symington's education adviser, C. Diane Bishop, who until earlier this month was Arizona's superintendent of public instruction.

The Governor also plans to propose legislation that would require students entering high school in the fall of 1996 to pass proficiency tests in core subjects before earning a diploma, codifying a rule approved by the state board of education last year.

Mr. Symington also called on lawmakers to crack down on parents who do not show up at their children's truancy hearings and to tighten the definition of a "habitually truant" student.

In a move that does not require legislative approval, the Governor announced plans to establish a commission that would charter a handful of schools across the state to serve high-achieving or gifted students. Students would apply for admission to the schools, which would be created under the current charter-school law.

Mr. Symington also said he wants to explore the possibility of creating specialized high schools for college-preparatory and vocational-technical students, saying that the comprehensive high school "no longer serves the needs of our 21st-century youth."

Mr. Symington called for Arizona youths to be tried as adults if they commit "chronic" or violent felonies and for the juvenile-justice system--which he described as "too soft, too centralized, and too unpredictable"--to be dismantled and replaced with community-based programs.

On the fiscal front, Mr. Symington joined many of his colleagues by calling on the legislature to cut income taxes, in this case by $200 million before the end of the session. The Governor has said his ultimate aim is to abolish the tax.

--Lynn Schnaiberg


Batt Promises Cuts In Cost of Schooling

Just six months after the Idaho legislature approved a record $92.5 million increase in education funding made possible by a booming state economy, the new Republican Governor cautioned last week against any further increases and pledged to create a task force to study how to cut school costs.

"We must eliminate waste in state agencies--including public schools and higher education," Gov. Phil Batt said in his Jan. 9 State of the State address. "That means not just examining requests for increases, but carefully scrutinizing existing maintenance and operations budgets for our agencies."

Despite the recent rise in spending, he charged, student achievement has not improved.

"Idahoans want accountability for their education dollars," he said. "They want to know why test scores fall--when appropriations increase--and why double-digit increases in appropriations don't seem to do much for teachers' salaries."

Governor Batt pledged to provide $58.5 million in property-tax relief, and urged the legislature to consider setting caps on the annual growth of property taxes and valuations.

--Meg Sommerfeld


Edgar Pledges To Push For More Local Flexibility

~In a State of the State address in which he promised Illinois citizens more of what they have become accustomed to over the past four years, Gov. Jim Edgar said Jan. 12 that he will continue to oppose any tax increases and push for greater flexibility for local schools.

Among the few programs targeted for new funds, the Governor said he will continue to support funding for a $75 million statewide telecommunications network.

Lawmakers have appropriated $30 million to wire and equip schools, and the Governor said that within a year he wants all Illinois schools to have access to computer networks.

Mr. Edgar called for greater local flexibility for Chicago schools and asked lawmakers to pass a charter-school bill that would allow teachers and others to design their own local schools.

In that same spirit, the Republican Governor, who is starting his second term, noted that he would welcome any bill making it easier for local school districts to obtain waivers from state regulations.

"Two months ago the voters of this state and this nation sent a clear and strong message that they want less government, not more," he said.

Mr. Edgar also promised that he will focus attention on school-to-work issues, urging expanded apprenticeship offerings for students who do not go to college.

--Lonnie Harp


Bayh Proposes Standards, Construction Approval

~Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana wants to institute a comprehensive system of achievement exams based on high academic standards to determine student progress in reading, writing, and mathematics.

"We must set academic standards that reflect what the real world demands," Mr. Bayh said in his Jan. 10 State of the State speech. "Last year 160,000 Hoosier kids did not meet even basic academic standards and we did nothing about it."

He promised that the state would provide intensive teacher training with an emphasis on science, reading, writing, and math.

The Governor also called for expelling any student caught on school grounds with weapons or illegal drugs and allowing the suspension of students charged with violent crimes.

He said the state's first boot camp will open soon to give non-violent juvenile offenders the discipline, education, and values "to get back on the right path and stay there." In addition, he proposed empowering judges to impose the same tough sentences that adults receive on juveniles who commit serious crimes.

"The young thugs that commit these crimes may be juvenile, but the crimes they commit are not," he said.

Finally, in an effort to slow the growth of property taxes, the Governor proposed making all new school-construction spending subject to taxpayer approval.

"Schools will get all the new construction they need, but only at a price the taxpayers can afford," Governor Bayh said.

He also noted that the state will implement an "aggressive" welfare-reform plan this month, which will require children on welfare to attend school and be immunized.



Branstad Vows To Cut Taxes While Increasing Aid

Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa promised in his Jan. 10 State of the State address to spend more money on public education, while also slashing the state income tax.

Mr. Branstad, a Republican who is beginning his 4th term, said he will propose a "school-improvement program" that would pump an additional $15 million a year for the next four years into state aid to local schools.

"I believe that with additional resources and the flexibility they need, our schools can compete with the best in the world," he said.

The Governor also made a specific commitment to "route the information highway to every school district in this state."

In addition, Mr. Branstad said he will propose an across-the-board 15 percent income-tax cut.

He also proposed welfare reforms that would encourage teenage parents to work by not penalizing them if they take part-time jobs while on welfare. Mr. Branstad also wants to require teenage parents receiving welfare to attend parenting classes or, if they have not completed high school, enroll in courses to earn a diploma.

--Robert C. Johnston


Engler Calls for Repeal Of Entire Education Code

Gov. John Engler of Michigan last week joined other Republican state executives in calling for a complete review of his state's education department. But Mr. Engler went a step further in his State of the State speech, adding that he will push a bill to repeal all of the state's education regulations and start over.

In place of the current education code, Mr. Engler said he would like to see lawmakers design a set of laws that highlight the role of local teachers and administrators and give strong authority to parents.

"It's time to stop controlling education from Lansing or Washington," he said. "That's one outcome we should all agree upon."

Mr. Engler called on the state board of education to conduct an all-out review of the education department in search of positions and regulations that could be cut. The Governor issued an executive order the day after the speech transferring supervision of college-level financial aid from the education department to the state treasurer.

The Governor, who was elected to a second term in November, also asked lawmakers to expand upon earlier charter-school legislation and create a network of trade academies that would train skilled workers.

--Lonnie Harp


Deregulate Local Schools, Gov. Fordice Proposes

Charging that state regulations are hindering progress in Mississippi's schools, Gov. Kirk Fordice pledged in his Jan. 10 State of the State speech to introduce a proposal that would allow local school boards and parents to operate school districts independent of state regulations.

"Mississippi should allow all of our school districts to create a plan to govern themselves from the beginning and experiment with new and innovative methods of education," said Governor Fordice. "If a district fails to perform, then and only then, should the state step in and take control."

Mr. Fordice complained that despite a 62 percent increase in spending, little has changed in student performance since the passage of a state education-reform act in 1982.

"With that kind of an increase, one would think our 1st graders in Mississippi would be performing brain surgery by now," he declared. "'More funding' was the call in the 1980's. I believe 'more accountability' should be the call of the 1990's."

The Republican Governor also pledged in his "Mississippi Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" to cut spending and cut income taxes by 10 percent.

--Meg Sommerfeld


Carnahan Favors Using State Block Grants

Gov. Mel Carnahan of Missouri wants to reallocate money from unspecified state programs to allow local leaders to decide how to deliver social services to children and families.

Echoing proposals by Republicans in Washington to fold federal programs into block grants, the Democratic Governor said in his State of the State speech last week that administration of social services should shift from Jefferson City to local communities, which are better equipped to design responsive programs. The Governor recommended the creation of community partnerships to assume that responsibility.

He said that the $21 million initiative would use federal funds as well as reallocated state money and that new spending would not be required.

Mr. Carnahan also called for rewriting the state's juvenile-crime laws, and said that if the federal government approves the state's application to waive Medicaid requirements, Missouri will be able to offer health insurance at little or no cost to children who are uninsured.

--Megan Drennan


Racicot Urges Overhaul of Education Power Structure

Gov. Marc Racicot of Montana wants to amend the state constitution to abolish the elected state superintendent's post and boards that oversee primary, secondary, and postsecondary education.

They would be replaced with a department of education headed by an education secretary appointed by the governor and an eight-member advisory panel.

"Let no one dispute that the goal of these to produce a government of minimum size and maximum efficiency," Mr. Racicot, a Republican, said in his Jan. 11 State of the State speech.

He added that the changes "are perhaps the most sweeping in our history--perhaps they seem too sweeping in some corners."

Under the current system, the state superintendent has little power and is subordinate to the state board, said Wayne Buchanan, the executive secretary to the board. Still, he added, Montana voters--who would have to ratify such an amendment in the 1996 elections--might be reluctant to give up their right to elect the superintendent.

Governor Racicot also announced he would seek a state constitutional amendment that would bar the state government from mandating local programs without providing the funding to pay for them, a parallel to the national debate on federal mandates.

--Robert C. Johnston


Johnson Urges Scrapping State Board of Education

Gov. Gary E. Johnson of New Mexico last week called for the abolition of the state board of education, saying: "We must make the distinction between advice and bureaucratic gridlock."

In his State of the State address Jan. 17, the new Republican Governor proposed creating a cabinet-level department of education that would report directly to him. Such a move would require a constitutional amendment, which both the Democratic-controlled legislature and the voters would have to approve.

Mr. Johnson criticized the state's school-aid policies as leaving "too little flexibility" for school districts, but he did not put forward a specific proposal to revamp the system.

In other fiscal matters, the Governor called for a 3 percent increase in teacher salaries for the coming year, saying teachers deserved more but that the proposed raise was all the state could afford. He called for state gaming and lottery profits--if such gambling is approved--to be funneled into capital improvements for schools.

The Governor also proposed to restructure the state's income-tax system, an initiative that he said would enable the state to give back $45 million to taxpayers in fiscal 1996.

--Lynn Schnaiberg


Allen Seeks To Abolish Sex-Ed. Requirement

Gov. George F. Allen of Virginia pledged this month to toughen academic standards, launch a charter-school initiative, and eliminate the requirement that public schools offer sex education.

In a State of the State speech that highlighted education, Mr. Allen announced Jan. 11 that the state board of education would soon begin an overhaul of academic standards in mathematics, science, and history--an initiative he called the "first step" in a 5-year education-reform plan.

The Republican Governor also unveiled a charter-school initiative that would allow local public school systems to contract with colleges, teachers, and businesses to run schools. These schools would use public school funds and would be administered by school districts, not the state, he said.

"I firmly believe that more decisions about education need to be made at the community level," Mr. Allen said.

To that end, the Governor proposed to fold money targeted to at-risk youths and dropout prevention into block grants to give schools more flexibility in designing programs.

The Governor's most controversial idea, however, is to revoke the state's family-life-education requirement. Under legislation now being considered by the legislature, districts would no longer be required to offer sex-education courses. And if schools chose to provide the courses, interested parents would have to take action to enroll their children. Currently, sex education is mandated and parents who object to what is being taught can remove their children from the classes.

--Jessica Portner


Invest Surplus in Schools, Caperton Recommends

Gov. Gaston Caperton of West Virginia has proposed sending part of a budget surplus to schools and enacting a series of initiatives designed to promote school safety and fight juvenile crime.

In his Jan. 11 State of the State address, Mr. Caperton proposed putting half of the state's $50 million surplus into a rainy-day fund and investing the rest in school buildings and classroom computers. The Democratic Governor argued that cutting taxes based on a one-time surplus would be dangerous, particularly with a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress threatening to cut federal aid.

The Governor's juvenile-crime agenda includes requiring educators, community leaders, and law-enforcement officials to draft a "safe-school plan" for each school.

He also proposed making it a felony to bring a deadly weapon within 300 feet of a school, treating juveniles over 14 as adults when they are charged with serious crimes, and giving educators greater authority to discipline students and move "dangerous kids" to alternative settings.



Geringer Promises To Hold Conference on Education

Gov. Jim Geringer of Wyoming plans to convene a "governor's conference on education" soon after the state supreme court issues its decision on the constitutionality of the state's school-funding formula.

Court decisions "do not diminish the responsibility of the legislature nor of the executive [branch] to determine education policy and the best means of delivering services," Mr. Geringer said Jan. 11 in his State of the State speech.

The newly elected Republican Governor said the conference would include school officials, parents, retired people, and representatives from business, higher education, and government.

Mr.Geringer also proposed a one-time increase of $4.7 million for the state education fund, and said he would introduce legislation that would give taxpayers more information about property taxes and provide unspecified safeguards against wide swings in tax assessments.

--Laura Miller

Vol. 14, Issue 18, Pages 8-9

Published in Print: January 25, 1995, as Georgia Governor Promises Four-Year Focus on Education
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