News In Brief
N.M. Panel Approves Tuition Tax Credit
After a proposed voucher program failed to win approval, the education committee of the New Mexico Senate last week approved a tuition tax credit for private education.
Under the bill, parents would receive a tax credit equal to the unit value in the state's per-pupil funding formula, currently $1,868, for each child in private school.
For households earning less than $16,000 per year, the bill would provide a tax rebate on the same basis as the tax credit.
The tax credit was approved on a 4-to-2 vote by the education committee and sent to the Senate finance committee.
Earlier, the education panel had deadlocked 4 to 4 on a voucher bill proposed by Sen. Joseph Carraro, a Republican.
The proposed vouchers would have been worth 75 percent of the state unit value, or about $1,400 in the first year.
The state's largest teachers' union is "going to work hard to defeat'' the tax-credit bill, said Steve Lemken, a spokesman for the National Education Association-New Mexico.
Backing away from an earlier reform, the Iowa legislature has approved a bill to allow a person to serve as both the superintendent and a principal in a small school district.
The House voted 57 to 24 last month to pass the measure, which already had received overwhelming Senate approval. If signed by Gov. Terry E. Branstad, it would soften a rule first established by the state board of education in 1987 and later written into law.
Supporters of the ban have argued that one person cannot adequately serve as superintendent and principal at the same time.
But supporters of the new bill said the ban places an unfair burden on small districts that have difficulty paying two people for the jobs.
Rep. Stephen E. Grubbs, the chairman of the House education committee, called the change in the law "one small, reasonable step'' to aid the state's rural districts.
Ohio school districts suffered their worst showing in more than three years in local bond elections last month, as voters across the state approved only seven of 50 issues.
Local and state officials said the results indicated that voters are frustrated with rising tax rates and see the school-bond measures as a way of voicing their overall displeasure. Some local voters also said they are not convinced that schools need more money.
The passage rate was the worst since August 1989, when state voters approved four of 29 measures on local ballots.
The Florida House is moving ahead with bills to raise additional education funding by removing sales-tax exemptions on various corporations and services.
As a cornerstone of his budget proposal, Gov. Lawton Chiles has advocated that many sales-tax exemptions be eliminated.
The House finance and appropriations committees last week approved a bill that would provide an estimated $185 million by eliminating exemptions on some corporations.
A second bill, which was approved by the finance panel and awaited action in the appropriations committee, would abolish the exemption on computer services, generating an estimated $119 million that would go toward the purchase of technology for public schools.
Both bills, which have been supported chiefly by the Democratic majority, were expected to go to the House floor late last week.
The legislation has less chance of success in the Senate, however, which is split between Democrats and Republicans.
Montana officials can use student-test-score data to try to demonstrate that disparities in local funding do not compromise a constitutionally mandated system of "equality of educational opportunity,'' the state supreme court has ruled.
The 5-to-2 ruling handed down last month allows the state, in defending the existing school-funding system against finance-equity challenges, to offer into evidence comparisons of districts within the state. The court barred comparison with districts in other states, however.
State Solicitor Clayton Smith hailed the decision as support for the argument that equality "is not measured solely by monetary inputs.''
But James Goetz, the lawyer for 64 districts that are suing the
state, argued that the ruling legitimized "voodoo statistics'' and is
unlikely to have an impact when District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock rules
in the equity suit.
Vol. 12, Issue 23, Page 24