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Schools Face Shortfall in Spec.-Ed. Funding in S.D.

Gov. William Janklow of South Dakota plans to introduce an emergency appropriations bill in January to cover a statewide shortfall in special-education funding.

School districts in South Dakota are reimbursed each year for all the money they spent on special education the previous year. Districts spent about $1.6 million more in the 1994-95 school year than the state projected.

The Sioux Falls district had suggested that the governor cover the shortfall with money from the state's so-called growth fund, which the legislature set aside to help districts experiencing increased enrollment. The legislature had appropriated $3.59 million, anticipating a statewide increase of 1,200 students in 1995-96, but only 674 new students enrolled. However, the governor said there is not enough excess money to make up for the special-education shortfall.

The amount of money available through the growth fund was increased in May as part of a transitional school-funding formula. It is designed to partially compensate for a property-tax cap the legislature imposed last spring, limiting increases in local levies to 3 percent. A new state-aid formula is to take full effect on Jan. 1, 1997, a move prompted when the state's highest court narrowly upheld the old finance system last year. (See Education Week, May 10, 1995.)

Governor Janklow said in a letter to the Sioux Falls district that he "continued to be very troubled" by districts' rising expenditures for special education, but that he was committed to fully reimbursing them.

'Governor's School' Defended

The Governor's School of Arkansas, a summer enrichment program that enrolls 400 gifted students each year, has won the praise of another panel of experts. But critics are still not convinced that the program, launched by President Clinton in 1980 when he was the state's governor, is not indoctrinating students with liberal ideas.

A report released this month called the program "excellent and innovative"--and unbiased. Opponents, such as the American Family Association of Arkansas, a conservative group, have argued that the six-week program is anti-Christian and a tool for political brainwashing.

The evaluation was conducted by three experts on gifted students and coordinated by a researcher at the University of Arkansas. It was commissioned by the state education department after critics charged that a study done last year by 16 independent observers--which found nothing questionable--was not thorough enough.

"There are critics out there who are determined this is horrible and want to close it down, and they are making it their life's work," said Ann Biggers, the state's administrator of programs for gifted students. "It's a fantastic program. We're not brainwashing anyone."

Calif. Education Audit

California's state controller has targeted the state education department for a top-to-bottom audit.

The controller will review the agency's spending practices and accountability systems because it oversees one of the largest chunks of the state budget, said Edd sic Fong, a spokesman for Controller Kathleen Connell. The announcement of the investigation does not imply that fraud or waste exists within the department, he emphasized.

The state corrections department will also be audited.

"These programs spend about 50 percent of every dollar in California," Mr. Fong said. "The controller is targeting these to see where savings can be achieved."

The controller is completing an audit of the state's Medicaid program and should begin her review of either the corrections department or the education agency in February or March, Mr. Fong said.

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