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The committees that are scheduled to recommend a major reform package for the South Carolina education system apparently will recommend that the money needed to carry out the reforms be raised by increasing the state sales tax.

Two panels appointed by Gov. Richard W. Wiley and Superintendent of Education Charlie G. Williams were expected to complete their recommendations this week. (See Education Week, Nov. 9, 1983.)

The subcommittee charged with developing a plan for financing the $200-million package--which includes extra funding for teacher salaries, building renovations, early-childhood education, and higher standards for teachers and students--announced that it would call for an increase in the sales tax from 4 to 5 cents.

That tax increase would bring in enough revenues to pay for all of the proposals in the reform package. Governor Riley earlier this year sought the same tax increase but was rebuffed by the legislature.

But Superintendent Williams said he was optimistic about the prospects for the tax increase--mostly because the education-reform agenda is more detailed than it was last spring.

A U.S. Education Department report on asbestos in the schools, prepared at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was sent to the committee on Nov. 4, slightly more than two months after the date it was originally due. (See Education Week, Oct. 12, 1983.) A draft of the report made available earlier to Education Week estimated the cost of removing asbestos from schools nationally at $1.4 billion.

The final report also places the cost at that level and estimates, as the earlier version did, that about 14,000 schools nationwide contain some friable asbestos.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Labor Department, also took action on asbestos last week. In an emergency temporary standard published in the Nov. 4 Federal Register, the agency reduced the permissible exposure limit for asbestos from two fibers per cubic centimeter as an "eight-hour time-weighted average" to 0.5 fibers per cubic centimeter.

The basis for the new standard is osha's "determination that continued employee exposure to asbestos under current conditions that exceed 0.5 fibers per cubic centimeter presents a grave danger of developing asbestos-induced cancer and asbestosis to exposed employees." The standard went into effect upon publication; the agency is accepting comments on the rule pending the publication of a final rule.

The Alabama Supreme Court this month rejected a request by the Birmingham (Ala.) Board of Education for a stay of the injunction ordering the board to hold portions of interviews with candidates for the district superintendency in public.

The court, in a unanimous decision on Nov. 1, upheld last month's ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Judge William Thompson that portions of interviews dealing with such matters as educational experience must be conducted in public. (See Education Week, Oct. 26, 1983.)

Board members who appealed Judge Thompson's decision to the state's high court last month said they wanted to conduct the interviews in private so the identities of the applicants for former Superintendent Wilmer Cody's position would be protected.

Arkansas teachers must pass a basic-skills test by 1987 or lose their certification, according to a new state law signed early last week by Gov. Bill Clinton.

At the same time, the Governor signed into law a 1-percent increase in the state sales tax that will pay for about $160 million in school improvements next year.

Legislators had linked the two bills, refusing to pass the tax bill without assurances that the quality of teaching would improve, officials said.

But the testing bill, introduced by Governor Clinton in a special session of the legislature in September, stalled when the Arkansas Education Association mounted strong opposition to it.

The new testing law requires all teachers to take a basic-skills test in mathematics, reading, and writing during the 1984-85 school year and to pass it no later than June 1, 1987. Those who fail may retake the test after remedial courses, and those whose certificates expire before June 1987, can obtain temporary certificates, said Constance Dardin, an assessment coordinator at the state education department.

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