News In Brief
Two committees of the Oklahoma Senate have approved a major education-reform and revenue package.
Before sending the measure to the Senate floor, however, the education and finance panels made significant changes in the version of the bill passed by the House last month. (See Education Week, Nov. 22, 1989.)
The education committee restored to the bill a provision, cut out by the House, to require schools to offer programs for 4-year-olds beginning in the 1993-94 school year.
The education panel also approved an amendment requiring districts to consolidate if they did not meet the standards of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The House education committee had approved an amendment that would have merged the state's more than 600 districts to 77. That amendment was weakened considerably on the House floor, however.
The education panel reported out the bill on a 13-to-7 vote, with key Republicans charging that the bill does not go far enough to reform education. Many Senate Republicans want the bill to eliminate teacher tenure and allow open transfers across district lines.
The finance committee's version, approved on a 10-to-8 vote, would raise $230 million in additional revenues for schools, largely through an increase in the personal-income tax.
Meanwhile, the House education and revenue and taxation committees have agreed to put seven proposed constitutional amendments4before the voters. The changes are needed to carry out certain sections of the reform bill.
Tax, Health-Ed. Plans
Rejected in North Dakota
North Dakota voters last week overwhelmingly rejected eight ballot initiatives, including three tax-increase proposals and a comprehensive statewide health-education curriculum. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1989.)
The "dramatic" results of the election represent a "sizable loss,'' said Carol Siegert, an aide to Gov. George Sinner. Without the benefit of increased sales and income taxes, she said, approximately $110 million will have to be cut from the budget.
Of that amount, Ms. Siegert said, $20 million must be cut immediately from elementary and secondary education, higher education, and health and human services. The remaining reductions will be made in a special session of the legislature, which Ms. Siegert predicted would be held early next year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne G. Sanstead said the cuts will result in "significant losses to school districts, which may be forced to give up courses, materials, and teachers."
Despite some controversy surrounding the sex-education component of the health curriculum, its defeat came as a surprise to backers, who had predicted an easy victory.
A group of 51 low-wealth Oregon school districts has mounted a legal challenge to the state's school-finance system.
The group's lawsuit, filed Dec. 1, had been planned for months. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)