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Ariz. Lawmakers Tackle Court's Facilities Order

After months of discussing inequities in Arizona's school-funding system, the legislature approved $70 million for school repair and construction in a special session last month.

Gov. Fife Symington signed the bill on July 18. When the legislature adjourned its regular session in late April, lawmakers agreed to a $30 million grant-and-loan fund to help the poorest schools build or repair facilities that are deemed a health or safety emergency. With the legislature's latest action, schools will be able to draw from a $100 million fund.

Nearly two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state's school-finance system was unconstitutional because of vast disparities in school construction, building maintenance, and equipment.

Although Mr. Symington called the additional funds "a permanent fix," Lisa Graham Keegan, the state schools superintendent, joined representatives of districts that filed the original funding lawsuit in calling for an over-haul of the entire school-finance system.

Poor Repair

Insufficient supplies, deteriorating facilities, and lack of technology leave Virginia schools near the top of the list of states with substandard classroom conditions.

A six-year study released last month by the state education department said that building needs in most Virginia schools cannot be supported by local taxes. Even if local taxes were doubled, the report says, the revenue still would not be enough to make the needed improvements.

The report paints a bleak picture for state lawmakers interested in school improvements. The state's projected need for spending on education facilities over the next five years is $6.3 billion statewide.

Looking at technology readiness, the report of schools also cited problems with insufficient electric outlets and a lack of space.

The report says 72 percent of Virginia schools need more electrical outlets in classrooms and 57 percent of schools have classrooms that are too small to accommodate computers.

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