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State Journal: 'Come get me'; 'Injection' rejection

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Gov. William P. Clements Jr. is convinced that Texas can meet a judicial mandate to reform its school-financing system without imposing new taxes.

Indeed, the Republican Governor feels so strongly about the subject that he recently vowed--albeit in a jocular tone--to pay a high personal price if need be to achieve his goal.

The legislature is currently in the middle of a special session convened by Mr. Clements to consider ways of satisfying the state supreme court's order last fall to devise a more equitable finance system.

If lawmakers fail by the end of the 30-day session to come up with a plan that relies solely on existing revenues, he said, he would simply call them into several more special sessions until they did--even if that meant that the legislature would not meet the court's May 1 deadline for completing action.

"I don't think the deadline has any significance," he said.

"They may lock me up in jail," he added, reportedly with a chuckle. "They may come get me, but I don't think that that has any significance."

To back up his contention that massive new funding is not the answer, Mr. Clements also recently released a management study that, he said, showed that the state's schools are "operating in an atmosphere mired in red tape and inflexible rules."

Seeking to end a long-running school-finance debate, Colorado lawmakers in 1988 approved an unconventional funding formula.

The new law divided all school districts in the state into eight categories, based on their relative wealth and demographic characteristics. Under the system, urban districts and far-flung rural systems got more state aid, while well-to-do suburban and "recreational" districts got less.

An independent panel was created to hear appeals from districts that thought they deserved to be in another--presumably more lucrative--category.

Perhaps it was inevitable, though, that some districts would grow frustrated with the system and turn to their legislators for help.

After the Colorado Springs district complained about its classification, a state representative from that city, Barbara Philips, introduced a bill enabling the legislature to change the funding categories.

Critics of the measure warned, however, that the bill would "inject'' politics back into the system and give areas with more clout an unfair advantage.

Ms. Philips's bill passed the House last month. But the Senate education committee subsequently tabled the measure, effectively killing it.--hd

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