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Most Ark. Districts Opt for Higher Tax

Voters in only seven of 132 Arkansas school districts have rejected a property-tax increase called for by state lawmakers earlier this year.

The districts with local tax rates still below the state's required level will be charged a 10 percent income-tax surcharge at year's end. The new local money will then be pooled and redistributed to districts under an equalization formula signed into law by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker earlier this year. The equalization payments will begin next school year. (See Education Week, April 12, 1995.)

State officials said that 179 Arkansas school districts already taxed residents at 25 mills or more.

Seeking Peace in Penn.

Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania last month asked a state task force to spread the news among communities on preventing youth violence.

Headed by Mr. Ridge's wife, Michele, the Community Partnership for Safe Children includes several Cabinet secretaries, law-enforcement officials, and church leaders. The group will identify communities that have implemented proven violence-prevention strategies and help other towns copy them.

The governor approved $3 million in the fiscal 1996 budget to build alternative schools for troubled youths. No state funding has been allocated for the task force, but its recommendations are expected to influence where state funds will be spent, officials said.

"We are tough on crime because we have to be," Gov. Ridge said in a statement last month. "But the best way to stop crime is to prevent it."

The task force will report to Mr. Ridge sometime next year.

A Private Matter

A group of Quakers in Ohio says it will warn parents about a new law requiring school districts to provide military recruiters with information about 10th- through 12th-grade students.

The Dayton-based affiliate of the American Friends Service Committee will begin a campaign in January to notify parents that they can tell districts to withhold information about their children from the military.

The new law gives parents this option, but it does not require school districts to notify parents about it.

Early Returns

Even as its sponsors continue to gather the required 41,000 signatures, a proposed Idaho ballot initiative already is stirring up controversy.

The petition calls for a $500 tax credit for parents who home-school their children or send them to private schools. Opponents contend, however, that it is unconstitutional because it includes religious schools.

The matter already has come before Attorney General Alan G. Lance, who found that the petition, which sponsors want on the 1996 ballot, probably would pass constitutional muster if it were challenged in court.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and the state chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State are still arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that even indirect aid like an income-tax benefit violates the Establishment clause of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Idaho's constitution is even more protective of religious liberty and is stronger on separation of church and state, said Jack Van Valkenburgh, the executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. That has yet to deter the Idaho Citizens Alliance, the tax credit's supporters, who have until next summer to collect signatures.

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