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Virginia's new state schools superintendent took office last week, stressing the need to limit the federal government's role in public education.

Following Gov. George F. Allen's appointment last month, Richard T. LaPointe praised the Republican governor for rejecting Goals 2000 funds, arguing it would invite too much federal intrusion.

Mr. LaPointe, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under Presidents Reagan and Bush, vowed in his term to focus on the basics of education. Mr. LaPointe replaces William C. Bosher Jr., who resigned from the $116,000-a-year position in May to become the superintendent of the Chesterfield County, Va., schools.

Earlier last month, Gov. Angus S. King Jr. of Maine recommended that J. Duke Albanese succeed Wayne Mowatt as the state education commissioner. Mr. Mowatt left the position July 1.

The superintendent of the 2,500-student Messalonskee school district in Oakland, Maine, Mr. Albanese already has experience in state education policy through his work on the governor's task force on learning results.

If confirmed by the state Senate in a special session next month, Mr. Albanese will play a central role in implementing the learning-results standards he helped propose. His salary would be determined after confirmation, and could range from about $53,000 to $78,000.

Trials Set

The North Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to try the school-finance case brought by 11 school districts. It rejected an appeals court decision that said the case did not need to be heard.

The case was filed in 1994, with poor districts arguing that smaller tax bases mean students in their schools do not have the same educational opportunities as their peers in wealthy districts.

Willie J. Gilchrist, the superintendent of schools in Halifax County, said the state's finance program has allowed 10 of the district's 15 schools to fall below standards. "Three of our schools really need to be shut down," the head of the 6,000-student district said. "They are not suitable for technology, and they are not suitable for day-to-day operation."

A trial date has not been set.

Meanwhile, a similar debate has ensued in Pennsylvania as 216 school districts claimed that state officials are failing to meet their school-funding obligation.

A trial is scheduled to begin there on Aug. 5. The courtroom showdown comes after a drawn-out battle and several pretrial conferences that have not helped settle the debate between representatives of poor and rural schools and Gov. Tom Ridge and legislative leaders.

Building Woes: Citing deep disparities in school facilities from one district to another, consultants to the Nevada legislature have proposed options for raising state funds to combat the problem.

A report released last month by Management Analysis & Planning Associates of Berkeley, Calif., estimates that the state needs $275 million a year for school construction and renovation.

Unlike most states, Nevada leaves it entirely up to local districts to meet their building needs. The consultants laid out options for the state to start contributing to such projects, including a statewide property tax, a sales-tax hike, a rise in the tax on gambling receipts, and an increase in housing-developers' building fees.

Voting Power Expanded

Voters in all but the five big-city school systems in New York will get to vote on their district school budgets beginning next year, as a result of legislation Gov. George Pataki signed last month.

Under the measure, which supporters have been pushing for a decade, residents in 57 smaller cities get to join voters in 628 other districts in casting ballots rather than relying on the local school board to adopt an annual spending plan.

With passage of the fiscal 1997 budget still pending last week, however, school officials were upset that they are being forced to borrow money to pay their bills. The state's fiscal year started July 1.

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