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No Trial Before 1996 In Pa. Finance Case

A five-year-old legal challenge to Pennsylvania's school-funding system will not go to trial until at least next year, as a commission appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge sets to work on a legislative resolution of the dispute.

A state judge last month delayed setting a trial date for the lawsuit to allow the commission's nine members to be named and begin their work. Judge Dan Pellegrini has been pushing for a settlement in the case.

Gov. Ridge has named four officials from his administration to serve on the panel and will consider appointing members recommended by the suit's plaintiff, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.

The suit, which is backed by 215 of the state's 501 districts, argues that Pennsylvania's poorer districts do not get enough state aid. The group earlier this year presented a plan to replace property taxes as a source of school funding with a mix of personal-income and business taxes.

Pension Plea

A group of Ohio lawmakers has asked the board that governs the State Teachers Retirement System to reconsider its decision to slash monthly payments to inactive teachers.

The October 1994 recalculation--which the board said was forced by a lack of funds--affected about 15,000 former teachers, reducing their monthly benefits by as much as 50 percent, according to Sen. H. Cooper Snyder. The former teachers, some of whom left teaching for other occupations, had all become vested in the pension plan during their service.

The lawmakers, members of a joint legislative committee formed to study pension issues, proposed that the retirement-system board spread the reductions over a 10-year period, and instead eliminate other discretionary benefits the system provides.

"At this point we feel there is a moral responsibility, and we have urged the board to reconsider," Sen. Snyder said.

School Closings Stall

The Hawaii Department of Education has postponed action on an effort to streamline the administrative requirements needed to close schools.

The department had proposed the rules change as part of a plan to cut waste and inefficiency in the unique statewide school system by closing some of its smaller schools. But a public outcry ensued, which a department spokesman said was due to a misperception that the state was targeting all small schools and that the public would lose its voice in the school-closing process.

The proposal has been put on hold for several months, and the department is now concentrating on other ways to compensate for an estimated $25 million budget shortfall out of next year's approximately $720 million budget.

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