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Maryland Panel Seeks $800-Million Tax Boost

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A Maryland state commission last week called for an $800-million tax increase aimed at bolstering the coffers of school districts and local governments in the state's poorest areas.

The proposal by the Maryland Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure will go this week to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who will decide whether to submit it to the legislature, according to Jay Ladin, the commission's deputy director.

The proposed package includes a 0.5 cent increase in the sales tax and higher income taxes for families with annual incomes over $50,000.

The sales-tax provisions are expected to raise about $530 million, of which about $350 million would be earmarked for the schools.

In a related development, a coalition of education activists last week proposed a school-finance plan that would add $628 million to state aid to poor districts.

Idaho officials cannot count such supplementary personnel as music, art, and physical-education teachers in their efforts to meet a student-teacher ratio mandated by the legislature, a state judge has ruled.

The ruling, issued last month by Judge Robert Newhouse, was a victory for the Idaho Education Association, which had argued that when the legislature appropriated $13.7 million last year to support a statewide 20-to-1 student-teacher4ratio in grades K-3, it intended that the ratio should take into account classroom teachers only.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry L. Evans had argued that teacher-specialists, who do not have classrooms of their own, come into contact with students often enough to meet the intent of the mandate.

A lawsuit challenging the fairness of Alabama's school-finance system will be delayed because of the election defeat of the judge scheduled to hear the case, according to plaintiffs in the case.

The suit, filed last May by the Alabama Coalition for Equity on behalf of school systems in low-wealth areas, was to be heard by Montgomery Circuit Judge Mark Montiel.

But the case will have to be reassigned to Eugene W. Reese, the Democrat who defeated Mr. Montiel last month. As a result, the earliest the case could be heard would be in January, explained Douglas Anderton, assistant superintendent of the Lawrence County schools. The county's superintendent, DeWayne Key, heads the equity coalition.

Missouri's Foundation Program Formula for state school aid is inadequately funded, a group of school districts charged in a lawsuit filed last week.

The suit was filed by the Committee for Educational Equality, which represents 76 districts.

The suit is aimed at forcing the state to fully fund the formula.

Currently, the state distributes $850 million annually to local districts through the formula, a level that the districts argue is about half of what is required by the state constitution.

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