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Final Passage Likely Of Career-Ladder Bill

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Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee this week could sign into law the legislation that he has been promoting for more than a year--a measure that would fundamentally alter the teaching profession in the state's public schools.

The Senate passed the so-called master-teacher legislation--under which the state would increase taxes and create a "career ladder" for teachers--earlier this month. The House last week passed its own version, and, two days later, the Senate began the final stage of maneuvering by considering whether it would accept the House version of the legislation.

Governor Alexander called the special session of the legislature seven weeks ago to deal exclusively with education issues. (See Education Week, Jan. 11, 1984.)

The Tennessee Education Association was bitterly opposed to the teacher initiatives until last month, when it reversed its position and reached a compromise with supporters of the bill in the Senate.

Bracey Campbell, the Governor's chief lobbyist for the legislation, said legislative leaders have told him that the Senate will vote this week to approve the version of the legislation passed by the House of Representatives.

In a 62-to-29 vote, the House approved legislation last Tuesday to establish the five-step system for ranking teachers. The House also approved by a 52-to-45 vote a one-cent increase in the state's sales tax of 4.5 percent.

The House and the Senate bills differ "in minor ways," said a spokesman for the state department of education. If the upper chamber does not approve the House version, a joint legislative committee will negotiate to resolve the differences.

The major difference between the bills, officials said, is the decision by the House to delete an amendment that would have reduced by five the number of pupils allowed in classes in grades K-3. House members balked at the provision because of its cost to local districts, and Senate leaders said they would agree to drop the provision.

The chambers have technical differences about the sales-tax hike and other differences on the details of the businesses tax increases. The two chambers disagree, for example, about whether bingo games and cable television stations should be included in an amusement tax.

The sales-tax increase is expected to raise about $281 million and the hikes in business taxes are expected to raise another $70 million.

The legislation will be phased in over a three-year period starting with the 1984-85 school year, Mr. Campbell said. The education department will hire some 200 officials to evaluate teachers in the state. Only new teachers will be required to take part in the differential-pay plan.

Governor Alexander's initiative has attracted national attention during the debate over "merit pay" in recent months. Mr. Campbell said all 50 states and many other countries had requested information about the Governor's plan.

Mr. Campbell said Governor Alexander's frequent meetings with teacher groups made possible the success in the special session of the legislature.

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