News In Brief
The Mississippi Senate has approved a 1-cent sales-tax increase to fund a major new education-reform program.
But the proposal, which would bring the state sales tax to 7 cents, is expected to meet resistance from House conferees when the two chambers meet to work out the differences in their education-reform bills. (See Education Week, Feb. 21, 1990.)
Gov. Ray Mabus, who proposed a state lottery to generate some of the money needed to fund his education proposals, has denounced the tax hike. "This tax increase is unneces4sary and is another example of using education as a whipping boy," he said.
Mr. Mabus contends that past tax increases enacted in the name of education have gone to other purposes.
The Senate approved the sales-tax increase after rejecting the Governor's call for a constitutional amendment authorizing a lottery. The House bill's only new revenue source would be the legalization and taxation of bingo and video poker, an electronic arcade game.
The House plan is estimated to cost $421 million, while the Senate version would cost $382 million.
- Idaho lawmakers have approved an open-enrollment bill allowing students to transfer to other school districts in the state.
The measure would allow districts to decide if they will receive students, but would not permit them to prevent students from applying for transfers to other districts.
Under the bill, parents would be responsible for transportation outside their residential district.
School districts would be required to draft guidelines for accepting and rejecting students applying for transfers. Districts would be able to reject students if their programs are already filled, but would be barred from considering students' academic performance, athletic or extracurricular ability, or proficiency in the English language when reviewing transfer applications.
- The Idaho House has rejected a scaled-down version of a comprehensive school-finance revision proposed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry L. Evans.
Last month, the House education committee rejected Mr. Evans's initial plan, which would have altered the existing school-finance system to favor districts with low levels of property wealth.
The modified version of the plan would have allowed smaller districts to retain some of the advantages they have under the current formula.
As a result of the legislature's action, a coalition of 11 districts is reviving plans to sue over inequities in the school-finance formula.
- The Tennessee state school board could experiment with new ways of funding up to 12 school systems, under legislation approved by the House Education Committee.
The bill would allow the state to distribute money to districts according to their needs, rather than on a per-pupil basis, as under current law.
The board has asked legislators to allocate up to $25 million for the pilot program, which would be part of the state's effort to make its school-financing formula more equitable.
A lawsuit filed by 66 rural counties contends that the state system of distributing school aid is unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local sales and property taxes.
- The Tennessee House has passed a bill ending an exemption from school-attendance requirements for children living in remote rural areas.
Under a 1947 law, children who live more than three miles from a school-bus route or the nearest road, and who are not provided with transportation by the local district, are not required to attend school.
Representative Roy B. Herron sponsored the bill after the superintendent of the Dyersburg schools complained that the parents of a student had cited the law as a reason for keeping their child out of school.
- Because of a clerical error, the Texas legislature's recent reform of the state's career-ladder program for teachers is invalid, the state supreme court has ruled.
Last spring, the legislature changed the career-ladder law by setting higher standards for teachers. Lawmakers intended the changes to take effect in September 1989.
Through a clerical error, however, the effective date of the changes was listed as September 1990. Legislative leaders then wrote to Commissioner of Education William N. Kirby, saying they intended the changes to take place last September, but a state teachers' group filed suit to block the law's implementation.
The court ruled last month that an error affecting a bill's effective date means "the entire bill must fail."