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The Massachusetts Senate last week passed an education-reform bill that would require all districts to participate in school choice.

The controversial measure, which was kept alive on a 20-to-19 vote, was headed to a conference committee late last week.

The House version of the long-awaited reform bill expressly excludes expansion of the state's existing voluntary choice program.

Although the two bills also differ on school funding and labor relations, observers believe that the real battle will be over choice.

President of the Senate William M. Bulger, a proponent, and Speaker of the House Charles F. Flaherty, an opponent, have both been adamant in their positions on the issue.


The Utah legislature last week approved a plan to raise money for new school construction by reducing sales-tax exemptions for business.

Passage of the bill was a victory for Gov. Mike Leavitt, who had proposed the plan as an alternative to a school-construction bill that relied on a statewide property tax. The Governor vetoed that bill last month.

Mr. Leavitt's plan relies on about $5.7 million a year from a 1991 "Robin Hood'' tax-redistribution bill. It will raise additional funding by reducing or eliminating some of the 35 sales-tax exemptions available to businesses.

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