Republican state Schools Superintendent Anne Fox proposed a state school aid package Monday that is $18 million more than GOP Gov. Phil Batt recommended.
Moreover, Fox advised legislative budget writers that she could not live with the new governor’s proposal.
“The answer is no,” Fox said in her first appearance before the Joint FinanceAppropriations Committee. “We would feel uncomfortable with staying that low.”
State Board of Education President Roy Mosman anticipated Fox’s proposal to boost state education aid 9.9 percent to $682 million with a warning to the House-Senate panel: Any substantive reductions in the board-backed request from a coalition of education interests would result in the larger class sizes that lawmakers ordered an end to last winter.
On the day she took office, Fox said she intended to come in with her own budget request about $30 million lower than the original proposal from the education coalition. She since has said she does not intend to work with the coalition in forming a unified budget proposal in the future as former Republican Schools Superintendent Jerry Evans did.
When adjusted to reflect Batt edicts for a 5 percent employee pay raise and no additional pension benefit improvements, the coalition and state board proposed about $700 million in state aid for the 112 school districts for the 1995-1996 school year. That is about 13 percent over this year’s allocation.
In his hold-the-line budget that siphons off $40 million in state tax receipts to underwrite local property tax relief, Batt proposed a total of $664 million, a 7 percent increase.
In addition, Fox, who campaigned on a platform of more accountability to taxpayers, proposed a 36 percent increase in her own office budget from the existing appropriations. Batt actually recommended a half percentagepoint reduction. The bulk of that increase is $1 million for adult basic education programs.
In an atmosphere of checking the growth of the state payroll, Fox proposed adding both consultants and full-time employees to her office to develop generic school construction plans and administer three new programs in discipline, reading and academic improvement.
“That money is going to help school districts,” she said, with improvements that eventually pay off in reduced welfare roles and prison populations. “Sometimes it takes a little money to save money.”
Mosman quickly acknowledged that the board has no authority to raise the taxes needed to finance the spending proposals from any agency.
But in more strongly advocating a public school aid package than any other board president has in over a decade, Mosman said it was important that lawmakers realize the impact of allocating less than the coalition recommended. That is particularly so, he said, when school districts statewide continue to see rising enrollments.
The state is expected to have another 4,300 additional students in the public school system next year.
“I am a Republican,” Mosman told the budget committee. “In many areas, I think I might qualify as a conservative Republican. I can say that because I support a lean and mean expenditure of public funds.”
“But in the effort to be careful stewards of public funds, I would hope you would make sure the cuts you make don’t eliminate the sustenance of education, what is necessary for the muscle and sinew of education,” Mosman said.
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