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Minn. Bill Seeks To Bolster Move to Outcomes System

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Minnesota legislators were expected to reach agreement late last week on an education bill that would support the state's efforts to move to an outcomes-based education system.

State education officials began in 1990 to develop a set of standards students would have to meet in order to graduate from high school. The new education bill, which was tied up in a legislative conference committee, would accelerate that effort by allowing the state board of education wider latitude in developing and approving the new outcomes.

It also calls for eliminating some 80 percent of state education mandates by 1996, when the new standards would be in place, according to legislative aides.

Under the new system, schools would be accountable for students' demonstrated achievement, rather than for "input'' measures such as the kinds of courses offered.

At Odds Over Revenues

The bill was bogged down, however, by disagreement among legislators over major finance provisions.

The two-year, $5.36 billion Senate bill, for example, calls for an increase in income taxes on the state's top earners. The increase, which would affect about 52,000 taxpayers, would generate an additional $137 million for education, according to Mark Mitsukanis, a fiscal analyst for the Senate finance committee.

House lawmakers, in contrast, separately approved a tax increase on upper-income residents that would generate about $300 million in additional education revenue.

Gov. Arne H. Carlson has vowed to veto any income-tax increases, however.

The two chambers also were at odds over how to spend the added revenue.

The House's $5.5 billion bill, in an attempt to reduce spending disparities among school districts, would provide supplemental state aid to the state's lowest-spending districts. It also would provide funds for reducing the ratio of students to adults in classrooms to 17 to one.

Aides said the Senate bill also would reduce class sizes. But it would do so in part by requiring college students studying to be teachers to spend a fifth year "apprenticing'' in schools at salaries below those of regular classroom teachers.

Lawmakers have agreed, however, on a provision that would expand from eight to 20 the number of charter schools across the state that are allowed to operate free from most state mandates.

Aides said conferees were working against a deadline of last Friday to resolve their differences.

When its graduation and student-performance standards are completed, Minnesota is expected to be among the first states to implement an outcomes-based system.

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