News in Brief
The Wisconsin Senate has derailed a proposed constitutional amendment designed to stop the use of local property taxes in funding schools.
Senators last month effectively killed off a measure providing for a statewide referendum on the amendment when, on the last day of their legislative session, they amended the bill to provide that only two-thirds of school operating costs would be removed from property taxes over 10 years.
Under state law, constitutional amendments must be approved unchanged by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions.
The original measure stemmed from a grass-roots lobbying effort to lower the historically high levels of property taxes in the state. But the bill had languished in the legislature, until it was passed for the second time by the House last month.
If the Senate had approved the proposal, it would have been included on November election ballots.
The proposal has been attacked by educators and some lawmakers because it does not specify any alternative funding mechanism for schools.
A proposed amendment to the Michigan constitution to require "equitable" state funding for schools has been approved by a Senate committee.
The measure has run into opposition, however, from the state's largest teachers' union. Allan J. Short, chief lobbyist for the Michigan Education Association, argued that the "equitable funding" clause could lead to reallocation of existing funds.
"There's no guarantee that it would mean additional funding, and that's our problem with it," he said.
The phrase is part of a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Dan L. DeGrow. The amendment would also declare education a "fundamental right" and prohibit sex-based discrimination in schools.
The m.e.a. supports those two planks of the proposal, Mr. Short said.
The Senate education comittee approved the proposed amendment last month. The full Senate is not yet scheduled to debate the change, however. The House is currently holding hearings on the proposal.
To take effect, the amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature and a simple majority of state voters.
Acting on advice from the state attorney general, the Kansas Senate has amended a bill exempting local school boards from certain state regulations.
In its earlier form, the bill would have allowed the state board of education to waive any of its regulations or other state laws if local districts so requested. The bill was intended to give districts flexibility in setting and achieving goals for their students.
According to the attorney general, the provision allowing the board to waive state laws was unconstitutional. That opinion prompted the Senate to change the language so the board may only exempt districts from its own rules.
Most of the key provisions of the bill remain, however, according to an official in the education department.
The Senate has passed the bill, which is currently before the House education committee.