States

State of the States 2002: Pennsylvania, Connecticut

February 20, 2002 3 min read
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Pennsylvania | Connecticut

PENNSYLVANIA

Despite Deficit, Schweiker Seeking More Aid for Philadelphia Schools

In his first and only state budget address, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark S. Schweiker proposed only a small increase for public education, saying he had to make “hard choices” in a fiscally tight year.

In a Feb. 5 speech to a joint session of the legislature, the Republican governor offered a $20.9 billion state budget for fiscal 2003 that would hike the state’s basic school subsidy by $39.6 million, or 1 percent, in the last fiscal year.

The governor earmarked nearly $28 million for the third year of the Education Empowerment Initiative, which offers extra help to academically struggling districts. He proposed to make schools, not just districts, eligible for the money and management help.

As expected, the governor also asked the legislature for $75 million in new money to help turn around Philadelphia’s schools, which are now being run by a joint state-city commission.

Also included in the governor’s budget proposal were several requests for money to continue existing programs: $23.6 million for a program that gives $500 tutoring grants to parents of 3rd through 6th graders who are struggling in math and reading; $30 million for a program that gives businesses tax credits for contributing to scholarship and other education efforts; and $25 million for an incentive-grant program that rewards schools for improving attendance and scores on state tests, or for keeping up high performance in both areas.

Gov. Schweiker, who replaced former Gov. Tom Ridge, a fellow Republican, when he became President Bush’s head of homeland security last fall, has said he will not run for governor in the November election.

—Catherine Gewertz

CONNECTICUT

Rowland, Citing Crisis, Wants to Rein In Costs

Eight months after approving plans to deliver financial relief to local school districts, Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland is sending out a different message: That was then, but this is now.

In the governor’s annual budget address, which was delivered Feb. 6 at the opening of this year’s state legislative session, Mr. Rowland said lawmakers must not ignore the new economic realities.

Owing in part to the national recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in neighboring New York, Connecticut now projects a budget deficit of about $650 million in fiscal 2003. “The state has less money than we all projected,” the governor said. “And we cannot afford to pretend otherwise.”

To head off the shortfall, while also paying for new domestic-security measures, the Republican governor called for a series of adjustments in the two-year spending plan that he signed last summer.

Under the budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year that was released with Mr. Rowland’s speech, the biggest change related to K-12 education would involve a 2 percent across-the-board reduction in aid disbursed through Connecticut’s main formula for distributing state funds to local school systems.

The proposal comes as school leaders around the state await the promised phase-out of a legislated cap that has limited the annual increase in state funds their districts can receive. Though lawmakers approved plans for the phase-out last year, the new policy has yet to be enacted.

Another of Mr. Rowland’s proposals would delay by one year a plan passed last year to boost state aid for districts’ special education costs. “Responsibility requires us to live within our means,” he said. But some new education spending was included in his recommendations.

Mr. Rowland called for legislation that gives the children of Connecticut residents killed in the Sept. 11 terrorism full scholarships to the state’s university system. And he announced plans for the next phase of a massive construction project under way to improve facilities at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“We’ve got our best chance ever to keep Connecticut’s best and brightest just where we want them—right here in Connecticut,” the governor said.

And although it wasn’t mentioned in his speech, a school voucher plan is outlined in Mr. Rowland’s budget proposals. Building on recently passed federal legislation—which requires states to intervene when schools fail to show improvement—the initiative would allow parents at persistently failing schools to use public funds to help pay for tuition at private schools, including religious ones.

—Jeff Archer

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A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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