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Ariz. Districts Call for $700 Million in Facility Aid

A group of more than 70 Arizona school districts has presented its plan for remedying inequities that spurred the state supreme court to rule the school-finance system there unconstitutional.

The ruling by the high court, handed down about a year ago, cited disparities among districts in school construction, building maintenance, and equipment. Since then, the legislature has studied the problem and created a panel to review various groups' plans, including that of state Superintendent Lisa Graham. (See Education Week, Sept. 20, 1995 and Aug. 3, 1994.)

The School Finance Reform Group, which includes districts that were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called on lawmakers to immediately use $100 million from the state's "rainy day" fund to alleviate what it sees as critical health and safety needs in school buildings.

The group estimates that another $600 million will be needed over a period of years to devise school-facility standards, bring all schools up to the standards, and revise the state financing system for capital expenditures.

Gov. Fife Symington called the plan "totally outlandish," according to The Associated Press. In a Sept. 29 speech, the governor said he would support calling a November special session of the legislature to deal with emergency school building needs. If a solution to the larger question of how to fund schools more equitably cannot be reached then, he said, the issue should be addressed during the legislature's regular session in January.

Colorado Standards

Gov. Roy Romer has unveiled the final version of Colorado's state academic standards in five core subject areas: reading and writing, mathematics, science, history, and geography.

A 1993 education-reform law mandated development of state-wide standards for what students at particular grade levels should know and be able to do. After earlier drafts were publicly reviewed and debated, the 130-page final document was approved by the state board of education and released by Gov. Romer last month.

School districts in the state have until January 1997 to come up with their own standards that equal or exceed the state's suggestions. The state board will decide on new assessment policies by next June.

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