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Land Sales in Okla. to Benefit Schools

Oklahoma plans to start selling off land to benefit its public schools, colleges, and universities.

The 500,000 acres of land, which is mostly pasture, has a total value in excess of $120 million, said officials at the Commissioners of the Land Office, also known as the School Land Trust. The sales will begin next year and continue for 12 to 16 years.

A change last year in the state constitution has allowed the trust to invest in securities and common stocks. Selling the lands and investing the proceeds is expected to triple the trust's value over the next 20 years, to $3 billion, said Herbert Johnson, the investment director at the trust.

The annual distribution to K-12 schools from the trust could also triple in that time, Mr. Johnson said. Last year's payment was about $39 million.

Check's in the Mail

Hundreds of Texas school districts received a bonus last month, splitting $65.8 million in back payments from the state.

The 272 districts got the money after 69 districts sued the state to recover property-tax reimbursements. State law requires the state to compensate districts when senior citizens' tax bills are frozen.

The state stops adjusting local property taxes after a homeowner turns 65. The court agreed, however, that the state should pay districts when the homeowners' bills are frozen. Under the order, Houston will get $15.3 million and Dallas will get $14.2 million.

Another round of back payments will be issued next year, state officials said.

Taking College Seriously

Minority students in New Mexico middle schools are learning what it takes to succeed in college.

Middle school principals and guidance counselors from across the state met last month to talk about "Contracting for Success," a program with the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

The program links minority students from rural and inner-city middle schools with university faculty members who teach in the student's area of interest.

Since the program started last spring, 1,400 students--now high school freshmen--have signed the contracts. They spell out the kinds of courses and the minimum grade-point average, 2.5, that students need to enter college.

"We want students to keep their options open," said Eligio Padilla, the director of the university's Southwest Hispanic Research Institute and the program's founder. "And many parents have no experience with higher education."

Lights Out

When class is over, don't forget to turn off the lights, the Hawaii Department of Education is warning schools across the state.

According to a department spokesman, the state legislature had asked Hawaiian Electric for an estimate of the statewide district's annual utility costs, and the company underestimated the amount.

As a result, the legislature reduced funding for electricity, causing a $2.8 million shortfall in next year's budget for utilities.

Although no students are being forced to study in the dark, the administration has asked schools to take extra care to save electricity.

Bored With School

Minnesota students gave their schools poor grades in a recent survey.

The study, released last month by the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation, surveyed 200 students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades from across the state.

Eighty percent of the students said half of what they do in school does not enhance their education. They also said boredom often gets in the way of learning.

The study found that students feel responsible for their own learning and that challenging graduation standards will encourage achievement.

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