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Fox Asks Legislators For Bigger Aid Package

Republican State Schools Superintendent Anne Fox called on lawmakers Tuesday to take a much harder look at the state aid package GOP Gov. Phil Batt proposes for public schools.

She said the governor’s plan offers little to meet what she sees as major needs in education.

“Please don’t go too fast here,” Fox told members of the Senate Education Committee.

Budget writers, however, are ready to start next week divvying up the $1.35 billion in general tax revenues left after passage of Batt’s $40 million property tax reduction package. And elimination of the $40 million for tax relief leaves them little room to deviate from the new governor’s tightfisted spending blueprint.

For public education, Batt has proposed spending $664 million in the 1995-1996 school year, up 7 percent from the current state allotment.

But legislative budget analyst Gordon Fisher said his calculations indicate Batt’s proposal will provide nothing more than the basics: the 5 percent pay increase the governor proposed for all employees, help for over 6,000 students with limited proficiency in English and $7 million for school technology.

There would be no money for continuation of the $2 million school reform effort and no additional cash for districts to spend as they see fit - many using it for basic operating costs like supplies, books, utilities. Some tap the discretionary money, which will total over $500 per classroom this year, for curriculum improvement or other so-called reform programs.

And Fox, who has proposed spending $18 million more than Batt, pointed out that the governor also did not provide for maintaining minimum state aid to a half dozen districts that would otherwise see state support decline or disappear.

Nor, she said, did he include the $4 million she wants for academic testing of every student in every grade, greater student discipline and developing techniques to improve reading.

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