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Indiana Senate Panel Kills Business-Backed Reforms

A far-reaching education-reform bill backed by a coalition of Indiana businesses has died in a Senate committee.

The coalition, known as commit, proposed investments in preschool, mandatory kindergarten, and health care for young children; a standardized high-school exit exam; and the lifting of many state regulations to free teachers and principals to manage their schools.

The most controversial part of the package was a proposal to give parents vouchers to send their children to the public or private schools of their choice.

The Senate Education Committee cleared the measure on a 7-to-5 vote, but stymied its chances by passing it on without a recommendation to the Senate Finance Committee, which then declined to consider the bill.

Senator John R. Sinks, chairman of the education panel, said members were concerned about the scope and cost of the bill. "The business community came in too late and were offering too much too fast," he said.

But the coalition, which includes executives from Eli Lilly and Company, Cummins Engine Company, and Lincoln National Corporation, has already launched a fund-raising effort among businesses to help support their proposals next year.

Gov. George S. Mickelson of South Dakota last week signed into law a $1.3-million bill to launch eight pilot projects that will serve as models for revamping K-12 education in the state.

The plan, proposed in December by the Governor, cleared the legislature late last month.

The goals of the pilot projects, according to Mr. Mickelson, are to make school learning more relevant to adult wage-earning life, create more comprehensive methods of testing, and link schools to the surrounding community. (See Education Week, Jan. 23, 1991.)

The projects, to be located in schools throughout the state, are to be developed this year and in place by the fall of 1992.

Legislation giving New Mexico voters the chance to decide on raising property taxes statewide to provide an estimated $569 million in new school revenues over the next 10 years has been approved by two House panels.

The House Education Committee voted out the bill Feb. 25, while the Taxation and Revenue Committee gave its approval March 1. The bill must still win the backing of the Appropriations and Finance Committee before going to the full House.

The proposed statewide property tax would levy 2 mills, or $2 for every $1,000 of taxable property value, for the first year and 3 mills the next nine years.

The bill provides for a special election on the tax proposal this year.

Revenue raised by the tax would be distributed to districts using the state's equalization formula.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved a proposed $185.5-million school-funding formula that would shift state aid from relatively wealthy school districts to poorer ones.

The formula was developed by a Denver-based school-finance consultant, John Augenblick, after state education officials determined that the state's Minimum Foundation Plan was potentially vulnerable to a court challenge. (See Edu8cation Week, Feb. 6, 1991.)

Under the proposed formula, which also requires some districts to increase their share of education funding, 52 of the state's 66 districts would receive more state aid. The other districts would lose aid, but not in the first year of implementation.

The program is expected to face a tough road in the legislature, which has the option either to accept or reject it.

Louisiana has faced difficult economic conditions in recent years, and observers say lawmakers may be reluctant to impose the spending cuts or tax hikes necessary to fund the program, particularly since the state will hold elections this fall.

A Kentucky legislative committee has acted to give the legislature as a whole the final say on a corporal-punishment ban instituted by the state school board last year.

The legislature, which does not convene in regular session until next year, would have to pass the paddling ban as law after the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee objected to the school board's policy last month.

The ban will take effect as scheduled on July 1, but without legislative approval will remain in force only until the end of the 1992 General Assembly.

Kentucky was the 21st state to ban paddling, school officials said.

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