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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Calif. Class-Size Funds Fall Short

Californias landmark class-size reduction effort hit a snag last week when the state education department announced that funding for new classrooms will come up $151 million short of first-year requests.

As part of last summer's $1 billion initiative to lower K-3 class sizes to 20 students, lawmakers set aside $200 million for facility needs.

But the department has already received applications for 14,000 classrooms, a number that adds up to $351 million, according to new data.

"We expect districts to phase in class-size reduction, and therefore we expect more demand in the coming years," said Delaine Eastin, the state superintendent of schools.

State funding for facilities is limited to $25,000 per classroom. The actual cost to set up a classroom, which may include the purchase of a modular unit, can reach $50,000.

All applications for 1st grade classrooms were funded at the requested levels, though $151 million in requests for other grades will go unfunded this year. The deadline for applying was Nov. 1.

Earlier this fall, legislators failed in their effort to put a school-facilities bond issue on this week's statewide ballot.

Despite the lack of state funding, many districts have seized on the idea of smaller classes. Portable classroom manufacturers in California plan to more than double their production, from 3,500 rooms last year to 8,000 this year. ("Calif. Scurries To Find Space For Students," Oct. 9, 1996.)

"We hope to have a special election in 1997 or a bond issue in 1998 to address class-size reduction and all the state's facilities issues," said Terry Bradley, the vice chairman of the state Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

S.C. Chief Backs More Kindergarten

The new education budget proposed by South Carolina's schools chief asks for money that would allow all children to enroll in the state's full-day kindergarten program.

The $258 million education budget for fiscal 1998 asks for an extra $39 million to pay for full-day kindergarten for all South Carolina children. The legislature approved a full-day-kindergarten plan earlier this year, but only for at-risk children.

The increase requested by state Superintendent Barbara Stock Nielsen would allow the state to pay its portion of the full-day program, which is currently funded 70 percent by the state and 30 percent by matching local funds.

"We still have a long way to go on this," Ms. Nielsen said. The request moves to Gov. David M. Beasley, who will present his fiscal 1998 budget to lawmakers early next year.

Beyond the kindergarten aid, the education department request also asks for $42 million for teacher training; $29 million for new technology; and $24 million for instructional materials.

Ms. Nielsen's plan would also require the state's 638,000 students to earn additional high school credits in math, science, and foreign language to graduate, a change that would cost $16 million.

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