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Utah To Vote on the Use Of School-Aid Funds

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Utah voters will decide whether money now constitutionally required to go to K-12 schools can be used instead for higher education.

Lawmakers last month approved an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the legislature to redirect money from the Uniform School Fund, which is earmarked for state school aid. The fund, which totals about $1.2 billion, is fed primarily by state income and corporate taxes.

Supporters argue that the fund should pay in part for many college programs--including teacher training--because they benefit elementary precollegiate education.

The amendment will be put on a statewide ballot in November.

Takeover Plans

The Mississippi education department was poised to assume control of the financially strapped North Panola schools late last week, after Gov. Kirk Fordice signed a bill accelerating the takeover process.

The state school board was expected last Friday to ask Gov. Fordice to declare a state of emergency, which the new law requires before the state can intervene in a district. Expecting a fast response, the department planned to appoint a conservator the same day.

The 2,206-student district faces a projected $1.2 million deficit in its $10 million budget. (See Education Week, Feb. 28, 1996).

Background Checks

Public school employees in Washington state would have to be fingerprinted for criminal-background checks by June 1997, under a bill passed by the legislature last week.

Under a 1992 law, new school employees who have regular, unsupervised access to children already must undergo background checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state police. The new measure would apply the requirement to employees hired before that law went into effect.

The Democratic-led Senate proposed providing $4.1 million for the checks, but the Republican-led House opposed that. Funding negotiations continued last week.

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