News in Brief
Despite "serious reservations," Gov. Stanley Stephens of Montana has signed legislation revising the state's school-finance system.
The measure, which seeks to reduce spending disparities among districts caused by overreliance on local property taxes, was passed by the legislature during a special session this summer. The state supreme court declared the current funding method unconstitutional last February.
The new law raises the state's share of local school costs from 56 percent to 82.5 percent, provides districts with a guaranteed tax base for their general-fund and retirement costs, and raises the statewide property-tax levy from 45 mills to 95 mills.
Governor Stephens said last month he was signing the bill "with reluctance."
While the measure raises state aid by $94 million for the 1990-91 school year, it does not provide for a "long-term, stable source of revenue," he said.
The Republican Governor also described the imposition of an income-tax surcharge on individuals and business corporations as "excessive," and objected to the increases in property taxes, which he said were ''already onerous for many Montanans."
James Goetz, the lawyer for the 58 districts that sued the state, said the new system "probably won't accomplish constitutional results."
He said his clients have asked the supreme court to retain jurisdiction over the case until July 1, 1991, a year after the new system has been in effect. They also have asked that the case be sent back to a district court, he said, because "factual hearings may be necessary."
Gov. Ray Mabus of Mississippi has listed seven broad goals for a package of school reforms that he plans to announce this fall.
The "Better Education for Success Tomorrow" program will focus on student assessment, early-childhood preparation, international competitiveness in academic achievement, and dropout reduction, Governor Mabus said last month.
Other goals, he said, are reducing adult-illiteracy and teenage-pregnancy rates and improving the state's higher-education system.
Governor Mabus said the state should increase its percentages of students completing high school and going on to postsecondary education, raise the percentage of students passing advancement-placement tests to the national average, and lift test scores above the national average.
The best program would seek to reduce the state's dropout rate by focusing on early identification of those at risk of dropping out. Once identified, such students would receive daily, individual attention, Mr. Mabus said.
The program also would help parents provide preschool education and expand early-childhood health care.
The Governor said he hoped the number of children who are held back a grade could be reduced from about 40,000 a year to less than 5,000 "without reinstituting social promotion."
Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota has indicated he may call the legislature into special session this month to consider a proposal that would reduce school districts' reliance on property taxes and require the state to assume a greater share of education funding.
Under the proposal, other forms of aid to local governments would be reduced to pay for the increase in education funding.
Mr. Perpich offered his proposal after vetoing a general tax bill on the grounds that it did not adequately address long-term problems in the current system.
The Governor believes the state should assume greater responsibility for the programs it mandates, such as education and human services, and that local governments should raise their own revenues for other programs, according to a spokesman,Patrice Vick.
Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin has vetoed $2.6 million in state funds to reduce kindergarten class sizes.
The Republican Governor said the program was unnecessary and would reward only those school districts with the highest pupil-teacher ratios.
The Governor last month vetoed 209 line items from the legislature's budget, including a provision to let the Milwaukee school system use $385,000 in state aid to provide extended-day care for preschoolers.
Mr. Thompson also limited the scope of a $1.4-million grant program to cover only programs for early-childhood education and day care, gifted and talented students, and special assistance to Indochinese pupils.
A 17-year-old who dropped out of 9th grade has lost his challenge to a West Virginia law that requires students to remain in school until age 18 to qualify for a driver's license.
State District Judge Paul Zakaib ruled last month that the state'scompelling interest in education outweighs an individual's privilege to hold a driver's license. Paul Jordan, an assistant attorney general, said he expects the case will be appealed to the state supreme court.
Michael Means, who is married, was denied a new driver's license by the Department of Motor Vehicles after he dropped out of school in 1988. Mr. Means's lawyer argued unsuccessfully that his client was entitled to drop out because the state requires school attendance only until age 16.
The state has revoked 787 teenagers' licenses since the law took effect last year. The measure apparently prompted some 1,800 dropouts to return to school, officials said, but half of them dropped out again.
Texas and Florida passed similar laws this year.
The Whitley County, Ky., school board has decided to continue its lawsuit challenging the state's partial takeover of the district.
A 1984 academic-bankruptcy law gives state officials authority to assume partial or full control of a district if it fails to make satisfactory progress toward improving attendance and achievement levels.
The state assumed partial control of the Whitley County schools in February, after the department of education determined the district had failed to make the necessary gains spelled out in the law.
The school board filed suit in March, arguing the district was not deficient in enough areas to warrant the takeover.
The trial in the case began in July, but Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham postponed it, asking the two sides to try to reach a settlement. The trial was scheduled to resume this week.
The California Assembly has approved a bill authorizing $20 million for programs encouraging parental involvement in schools.
While all districts in the state would be eligible to receive funds to establish or enhance parental-involvement programs, the bill directs state officials to give priority to poorly performing schools.