News In Brief
West Virginia voters have resoundingly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have drastically changed the state's property-tax system.
Unofficial results from the March 5 special election indicate that the proposal was rejected by a vote of 125,837 to 99,050, or 56 percent to 44 percent.
Under the current system, school districts are permitted to assess a portion of their property taxes without voter approval. Districts can also ask voters to approve so-called "excess" levies up to a maximum of 100 percent of the non-voter-approved tax.
State courts have declared unconstitutional the system's reliance on excess levies to fund schools.
The plan defeated by voters would have set a uniform excess levy of 90 percent in all 55 county districts. That would have lowered property taxes in 29 districts, raised them in 25, and left them unchanged in 1.
Special Judge Larry Cook, who oversees the state's ongoing school-finance lawsuit, said last June that he would order a massive redistribution of state aid to districts if the constitutional amendment was rejected. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on the constitutionality of Judge Cook's threatened action.
A Florida Senate committee has rejected a bid by the state's American Federation of Teachers affiliate to keep complaints filed against educators confidential if they are deemed unfounded after a preliminary investigation.
At present, some information about educators--such as health records--is exempted from Florida's open-records law. But complaints that could result in the loss of teacher licenses become public as soon as an initial inquiry is completed, with complaints that are unfounded noted as such.
The Florida Education Association-United had wanted to protect teachers and administrators from possible job loss resulting from the negative publicity surrounding an unfounded complaint. But that move was opposed by several statewide groups, including the Florida Press Association.
Members of the Senate education committee decided that they did not want to further chip away at the "public's right to know," said Michael J. O'Farrell, the panel's staff director.
The New Mexico Federation of Teachers is calling for a special session of the legislature in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to raise teacher salaries.
The group voted to press for a special session after learning that the legislature had failed to pass an expected $7-million appropriation for that purpose, said Paul Broome, the union's field-services coordinator.
The funds had been earmarked in two bills, both of which languished last month in the final days of the legislature's regular session.
Mr. Broome said the unappropriated funds could raise the 1.6-percent average salary increase approved during the regular session an additional 1 percent.
Rhode Island's education department has released, for the first time, one-page "educational profiles" for all of the state's 40 school districts.
The documents, which are expected to be published annually, are aimed at "getting a better handle on the educational policies and practices in the districts," according to Reo A. Beaulieu, coordinator of management-information services for the department. They also provide a picture of educational outcomes and community characteristics.
While most of the data have been released before in other forms, Mr. Beaulieu said, the new profiles summarize them on a single page.
The data include: student-achievement scores; per-pupil expenditures; financial resources; the number of special-education and limited-English-proficient students; and median family income.