News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Schools' Share of State Budgets Climbs

The rise in state contributions to K-12 education across the nation appears once again to have outpaced growth in other major categories of state spending.

In a survey of the current fiscal year's general-fund budgets in 44 states, the National Conference of State Legislatures found that precollegiate appropriations rose by 6.8 percent over last year, compared with just 5.3 percent for general-fund spending overall. The category ranking second for growth was higher education, with a 5.8 percent increase, the report says.

"Improvements in school technology, changes in state-aid formulas, enrollment growth, and improvements to capital facilities--these would probably be the top four reasons why K-12 has gone up faster," said Jennifer Grooters, an NCSL policy associate.

Precollegiate appropriations rose faster last year than in any of the previous three. In each of those earlier years, moreover, the increases in education funding had outpaced general-fund spending, the report says. On average, states are spending 34.4 percent of their general-fund budgets on K-12 education.

Figures from every state and the District of Columbia will be included in the NCSL's final report on state budget and tax actions, due for release by year's end.

--Bess Keller

New Calif. Law Bars Products From Textbooks

Gov. Gray Davis

A new California law will wipe out most corporate logos from new textbooks purchased for the state's schools.

Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed a measure late last month that will prohibit books from including commercial images and written references to products of fast-food restaurants, sneaker manufacturers, and other companies and products as a way to illustrate lessons or word problems.The law requires the state school board to reject books with corporate references unless they have an educational value that can't be achieved otherwise.

Democratic Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni introduced the bill after receiving complaints from parents about the content of textbooks commonly used in the state. ("News in Brief: A National Roundup," March 31, 1999.)

--David J. Hoff

Texas Audit Raises School Safety Questions

A Texas state audit has found that a law aimed at improving school safety is not guaranteeing that violent or disruptive students are removed from the classroom.

A report released this month by the state auditor's office found at least 850 violent incidents during the 1997-98 school year that did not result in student expulsion, as is required under the state's 1995 Safe Schools Act. Those on- campus acts included 255 incidents involving knives, 74 firearms incidents, 218 with other weapons, and 196 aggravated assaults.

The auditors also found that special education, minority, at-risk, and poor students were disproportionately represented in alternative education programs created by the 1995 law. The auditors recommended evaluating the performance of alternative programs and monitoring districts' compliance with discipline requirements.

A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said the department agreed with the recommendations and is considering plans for implementing them.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Gov. Pataki Vetoes New York Dropout Legislation

A bill to raise New York's minimum dropout age to 17 has been vetoed by Gov. George E. Pataki, leaving the future of the measure in doubt even though it was approved unanimously in June by both houses of the legislature.

In a veto message late last month, the Republican governor said that while he supported the aim of keeping more students in school, the bill was unworkable and overburdened districts. The measure had no legal teeth and provided no help for educators if they had to deal with more unruly students, he said.

Supporters countered that making students stay longer might improve their chances of passing the five state tests that will be required for graduation by 2003. Steven Sanders, the Democratic chairman of the Assembly's education committee and a sponsor of the bill, said that at 16 "a youngster is too young and too immature" to make the decision to drop out.

Currently, 21 states require students to stay in school beyond age 16.

--Bess Keller

Vol. 19, Issue 2, Page 5

Published in Print: September 15, 1999, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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