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State Report

100 Percent Deception

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt is pushing for legislation that will limit the way school districts can spend money. Dubbed the “65 Percent Solution,” it would require districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budget on items related to student instruction such as teacher salaries, textbooks, computers, and sports—regardless of district needs. That would leave only 35 percent for all other costs, including libraries, building maintenance, transportation, administration, and psychological and health services. Blunt wants legislators to put a referendum before voters in November 2006. “It offers no solution at all,” says Greg Jung, president of the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA). According to 2002–03 figures of five sample school districts, only one adhered to the 65 percent goal. Similar legislation has been proposed in at least 15 other states. 

By the Book Campaign 

Alabama After seeing how a living wage campaign increased salaries and boosted membership in Birmingham City, members of the Jasper City Education Support Professional Association (JCESPA) organized their own campaign in October 2004. A year later, membership increased by 10 percent to 119, and wages went up 1.5 percent above the state increase of 6 percent. That 1.5 figure updated a local salary schedule that had been in place since 1980. Their success tactics included community coalition building and use of comparable ESP wage figures with 10 school systems from the region with similar economic characteristics. “We compared apples with apples, not oranges,” says UniServ Director  and campaign manager Natasha Jackson.

TABOR is Toast

Colorado In 1992, Coloradans amended their constitution by installing a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The plan’s rigid ceiling on state spending made drastic budget cuts inevitable. The cutbacks caused Colorado to drop from 35th to 49th in the nation in K–12 spending as a percentage of personal income. Also, in-state college tuition increased 21 percent over the last four years. Last November, voters passed a referendum that suspended TABOR for five years. “This does not solve Colorado’s K–12 funding problem,” says Deborah Fallin, spokesperson for the Colorado Education Association (CEA). “It only keeps it from getting worse.” Colorado’s failed budget experiment arbitrarily cut funding on schools, roads, and health care. Other states are confronting similar reduced spending plans.

How To Snag Top Teachers

Pennsylvania Though the Homer-Center Education Association (HCEA) has only 71 members in a 1,000-student district, all of them are “good leaders and good people,” says Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) UniServ Director Bob Paskowski. Together, they gained a starting teacher’s salary of $42,566 this school year, escalating to a possible $52,012 in 2009–10. Also part of the deal: higher raises via an 11-step salary schedule. Little wonder that this district—despite its rural location—is now a top-tier destination for teachers.

State Legislators Need Initiative 

Idaho At the start of the school year, almost half of Idaho’s teachers were working without a contract. Idaho Education Association (IEA) bargaining teams in 29 locals were trying to secure new contracts for 7,276 of Idaho’s more than 15,800 teachers. In most cases, the barrier was insufficient public funds. Yet, by the end of November, IEA negotiators were able to win contracts for members in 22 of those locals. “It’s been four years since legislators have put any new money into education,” says IEA President Sherri Wood. “Educators are fed up with watching pay decrease as insurance, gasoline, and electricity costs rise.” Teachers and ESPs don’t blame district officials. “It’s not the districts’ fault. It’s the Legislature,” added Wood. IEA is leading the way for a November ballot initiative aimed at increasing education funding.

Securing Funds for the Future

Arizona K–12 public education is allotted millions of dollars a year from revenue generated by the leasing and sale of more than 9 million acres of state trust lands. Currently, the land is managed by a commissioner appointed by the governor. The Arizona Education Association (AEA) wants to change this in an effort to protect those funds and the environment. Together with conservation groups, AEA is spearheading a signature campaign for a November ballot initiative. Titled Conserving Arizona’s Future (CAF), the initiative aims to conserve natural lands, create a board of trustees (to include educators), and force developers to build quality projects. The initiative will provide a secure funding source for public education for generations to come, says John Wright, AEA president and CAF treasurer.  

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