Capitol Recap

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The following offers education-related highlights of the recent legislative sessions. The enrollment figures are based on estimated fall 2000 data reported by the National Center for Education Statistics for prekindergarten through 12th grade in public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending include money for state education administration, but not federal, flow-through dollars, unless otherwise noted.


Maryland Generates
Record School Aid

In a year when most state legislatures struggled to find money for schools, Maryland's lawmakers set records for spending.

A new law will increase general-fund spending on education by $250 million in the new fiscal year—the largest increase in state history—to make a down payment on a plan to pump $1.3 billion in new aid to schools by the 2007-08 school year. For 2002-03, the state will spend $3.1 billion overall on schools, and the amount will rise to $5.1 billion in five years.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening

34 Democrats
13 Republicans
106 Democrats
35 Republicans

"We have made education our top priority," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said in a statement after signing the funding measure and other education bills this month. "These bills will strengthen our commitment by empowering teachers to create better learning environments, and giving educators the funding and resources they need to help their students achieve academic excellence."

The new general-aid funds will be collected by raising the cigarette tax by 34 cents a pack, collecting an additional $73 million in fiscal 2003 and another $148 million the next year. Money for future years will need to be collected from other sources.

If the funding plan is fully implemented, schools in the state's neediest areas, such as the city of Baltimore, will see dramatic increases in state aid by the 2007-08 school year. Every district in the state will be required to have full-day kindergarten by that time.

The state also will pay $150 million for school construction and renovations in the coming fiscal year, capping off $1.6 billion in spending on capital improvements in Mr. Glendening's eight years in office. The two-term governor is prohibited by state law from seeking another term this year.

Under another new education measure, the state is taking control of the Prince George's County school board. Critics have cited the board's history of mismanagement and infighting. Gov. Glendening and the county executive are to appoint a new nine-member board by June 1 as part of the takeover.

The state renewed its management role in running the Baltimore city schools, a takeover that began in 1997 with the state's hiring of a chief executive officer and its assumption of responsibility for some of the city's lowest-performing schools. The new law will require the state and the city to devise a new leadership-development program for principals.

The legislature also passed a bill that will give teachers' unions in the state the right to negotiate over curriculum and other classroom instructional issues in collective bargaining.

Mr. Glendening vetoed a bill that would have updated how school repair money is distributed, calling it unfair to the 17 districts that would have lost money under a proposed new formula. Seven school systems would have gained, including the two with most of the state's neediest students: Baltimore and Prince George's County.

—David J. Hoff


Tight Budget Provides
Hike in Teacher Pay

Mississippi lawmakers took another step toward making their state's teacher salaries competitive with other Southern states, as they approved a modest education budget in one of the tightest years anyone could remember.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove

34 Democrats
18 Republicans
86 Democrats
33 Republicans
3 Independents

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove saw the Democratic-controlled legislature raise teacher salaries by 6 percent in the second installment of his five-year plan to raise the average pay for Mississippi teachers to the Southeastern average—a total of 30 percent over six years. Last year, it took a special legislative session to persuade legislators to pass a teacher-pay raise.

This year, Mr. Musgrove plans to call lawmakers back for a special session on Medicaid funding. If the state doesn't find a way to raise its level of spending on medical costs for the poor, the program is headed for "disaster," he has said.

Education fared better, but not well enough to help some of the nation's most impoverished school districts make the type of improvements the state is requiring, some observers say.

Lawmakers approved a $1.57 billion K-12 education budget, including about $57 million from a measure to collect corporate taxes earlier than usual to boost state revenue. The budget also restores about $50.6 million in school cuts from earlier this year.

The overall state budget shrunk slightly compared with last year's, but education spending grew by 6 percent from last year's K-12 budget of $1.48 billion, said Ralph McDonald, the budget director for the Mississippi Department of Education.

Despite an education spending increase of more than $100 million, the budget falls $60 million short of full funding for the highly touted Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The state estimates that 50 districts may be forced to raise local taxes or make cuts to pay for their parts of the school improvement initiative, which covers teacher raises and other programs.

—Alan Richard


Teachers Get Pay Raise;
Little More for Schools

Washington state's 2002 legislative session, which ended March 14, was dominated by attempts of the Democrats in control of the legislature and the governor's mansion to bridge a budget gap expected to total $1.6 billion over the next two years.

Teachers feared all session that the gap would be closed at the expense of a pay raise for them that voters approved under Initiative 732, which passed resoundingly in 2000. In a reflection of their vigorous lobbying, the teachers ended up with the full scheduled 3.6 percent pay raise, beginning this coming fall.

No such raise was ordered for about 25,000 teachers and other school employees whom lawmakers consider to fall outside the state's definition of state-funded basic education costs.

The Washington Education Association and several other school groups filed a lawsuit that attempts to mandate state-financed raises for those employees as well. Arguments in the case were heard by the state supreme court this month. The court has not yet decided the case.

Gov. Gary Locke

25 Democrats
24 Republicans
50 Democrats
48 Republicans
1 million

Aside from the salary issue and Gov. Gary Locke's veto of a $92,000 appropriation for a state technology task force, the $22.5 billion, two-year budget that the governor signed did little to change school aid, earmarking $5 billion for K-12 education next school year. That is about the same level as in the current year.

In addition, Mr. Locke signed a bill to authorize the state's "A-Plus" commission to set goals for schools to improve the performance of students in minority, low-income, and non-English-speaking groups. Other new laws require school districts to adopt policies on student bullying and direct the state schools superintendent to guide schools in drawing up comprehensive plans for safety.

The legislature defeated a proposal that Mr. Locke had put forward to reduce the majority required to pass school bond levies to a simple majority. It is currently two- thirds.

—Andrew Trotter

Vol. 21, Issue 38, Page 20

Published in Print: May 29, 2002, as Capitol Recap
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