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Arizona Chapter Schools Face Drop in Transportation Funding

The Arizona education department has cut back on transportation funding for the state's 46 charter schools.

Charter schools were to receive less transportation aid from the state as of Feb. 15. And 23 of the schools will have to pay back about $1.4 million in transportation money they had already received from the state, said Mark Sands, a spokesman for the department.

State officials maintain that the transportation-funding formula had been misinterpreted by many charter schools. Some critics say the state is simply trying to get out of paying its bills.

Since most charter schools do not operate buses, many had arranged to reimburse parents who drive children to school. Those schools had billed the state at up to $1.95 per mile--the same rate used for traditional public schools and school buses. The rate for reimbursing private cars is now roughly 30 cents a mile, Mr. Sands said.

"We accept responsibility for not recognizing that problem before the first round of reimbursements went out," he said.

Teacher Shortage:

The number of vacant teacher slots in Missouri at the start of this school year was the highest it has been in a decade, a study says.

Although demand for teachers fell slightly from the previous year, it remains at its second-highest level in 10 years, according to the study released last week by Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.

Some 245 positions out of the state's 58,000 public school teaching jobs were reported vacant in Missouri's 525 districts at the beginning of the 1995-96 year, said Don Keck, the dean of the university's college of education. Specialities particularly in demand included physics teachers, speech pathologists, special-education teachers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors.

Because of the aging pool of administrative staff members, Mr. Keck added, the state could be soon facing a shortage of administrators as well.

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