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State Journal: No excuses; Blurred vision; Pyrrhic victory?

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Neither rain nor sleet nor earthquakes, for that matter, will prevent Mississippi school districts from offering at least 175 full days of instruction next year, the state board of education has decided.

At its regular meeting last month, the board stiffened its policy on the school year, ruling that districts can no longer use natural disasters, inclement weather, or other unexpected occurrences as excuses for holding fewer than the state-mandated number of class days. Under the old policy, nine of the 175 days in the calendar could be half-days, and other exemptions could lower the total number of days to 170 or below.

"I want to see every school district have 175 full teaching days,'' said James E. Price Jr., the Corinth board member who proposed the change. "The more time they have to go to school, the better I like it.''

Minnesota's high-school dropout rate, already one of the lowest in the nation, might be reduced even further through a "blurring of the lines'' between public and private schools, says Gov. Rudy Perpich.

"We should look at it as though it is all one system when it comes to dropouts,'' the Governor said at a meeting of the state board of education last month. He stopped short, however, of advocating the direct provision of state aid to private schools through vouchers or similar methods.

After the meeting, Mr. Perpich said he would ask his aides and education advisory committee to study in coming months how the public and private sectors could work together to lower the dropout rate.

Utah's governor has warned educators that any short-term benefits gained by earmarking the state's $100-million surplus for schools would be outweighed by the long-term liability of a tax revolt.

At a recent breakfast meeting with state and local school administrators, Gov. Norman Bangerter noted that tax protesters are circulating petitions that would place an initiative on the November ballot calling for the rollback of the state's record $166-million tax hike in 1987.

"If you get your money this year, does that trigger your losing on the initiative petitions?'' he asked the educators.

Mr. Bangerter said he would still like to call a special session of the legislature this summer to return the surplus to taxpayers. "Returning it to [them] as promised is important to tell Utahans that government will not spend whatever it can get its hands on,'' he said. TM

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