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Frustrated with what they perceive as an intransigent legislature, 31 rural school districts in South Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state this month, claiming that the current school-finance system violates a state law by favoring wealthy districts.

Sixty percent of state education funds are distributed through an equity formula that is based on school districts' wealth. But funds for worker benefits, transportation, and capital-improvement costs are allotted on a per-pupil basis.

The poor, rural districts are asking that all state aid be disbursed through the equity system.

Lawmakers plan to introduce school-finance plans when the legislature reconvenes in January.


Reform Plan Unveiled: Kathleen Brown, California's state treasurer and a likely Democratic candidate in next year's gubernatorial election, proposed a school-reform plan in a speech this month.

Ms. Brown proposed a network of special schools for students caught with guns or drugs, which would meet 10 hours a day for six days a week and include community-service work as well as visits to prisons, hospitals, and morgues.

Ms. Brown also called for $100 million in bonds to upgrade school-security systems, a 13 percent cut in school-administration spending, major reforms in bilingual education, and programs that aim to prepare students for jobs.


Curbing Youth Gun Use: The Florida legislature last week unanimously passed a bill thattoughens penalties for minors who carry guns and for adults who sell them to juveniles.

Under the bill, juveniles under 18 may not carry a loaded gun or keep one in a car, but youths 16 and over may use a gun for hunting or target practice with an adult present.

Lawmakers voted to make adults who sell firearms to a minor guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

They also voted to increase the staffing and capacity of juvenile facilities, require young offenders to perform community service, and revoke their drivers' licenses for up to a year. The law would also make it a crime for an adult to leave a gun where a child under 18 could have easy access. Currently, the law applies to juveniles under 16.

Gov. Lawton Chiles is expected to sign the bill.

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