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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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N.H. Plans Education Summit for October

Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire has called a state education summit for next month involving educators, parents, students, and business leaders.

The agenda for the one-day event, to be held at a hotel and conference center in Bedford on Oct. 15, is still being worked out. But topics to be discussed include early-childhood education, assessment, technology in the classroom, and teacher preparation, according to Doug Hattaway, the governor's press secretary.

The summit is expected to attract about 400 participants, including members of the public. Mike McCluskey, a former chief executive officer of the Nynex Corp., will chair the meeting.

Mr. McCluskey is raising money to cover the cost of materials and other expenses related to the event.

Spagnolo Outlines Ill. Reading Initiative

Illinois state Superintendent Joseph A. Spagnolo has launched an initiative aimed at combating a five-year decline in the reading achievement of students in his state.

The new program, the Illinois Right to Read Initiative, sets a goal of having all elementary school students reading at the proper grade level and all elementary teachers using comprehensive, research-based methods for reading instruction within five years.

Specialized classes for low achievers and family outreach programs are two major parts of the initiative, for which Mr. Spagnolo has allocated $1 million in the state board's 1998-1999 budget.

"A child's right to succeed is dependent on the right to read, and this initiative is targeted to help all public schools improve reading achievement," Mr. Spagnolo said in a statement.

Since 1993, student scores on the Illinois Goal Assessment Program reading test have declined 14 percent in the 6th and 8th grades and 18 percent in the 10th grade.

In 1995, Mr. Spagnolo called for an independent review of the test to determine if flaws in the exam had caused scores to plummet.

The review concluded that although the test had flaws, the decline was significant enough to be cause for concern.

Report on State Spending Goes on Web

Roughly 30 percent of state spending went toward education in fiscal 1996, up slightly from the previous year, an annual U.S. Bureau of the Census study of state revenues and expenditures for the 50 states says.

Nationwide, state expenditures totaled $860 billion, and roughly $264 billion--or 30.6 percent--of that amount was spent on schools, according to the study, which was released on the Internet last week.

Nationwide, state expenditures totaled $837 billion in fiscal 1995, with $250 billion--or 29.8 percent--going to schools.

Annual Census Bureau surveys of government finances from 1992 through 1996 can be found on the Web at http://www.census.gov, or by calling David Kellerman at (301) 457-1502.

Former Mass. Governor Drops Ambassador Bid

After five months of both public and behind-the-scenes political wrangling, former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld has sourly concluded his bid to become the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Mr. Weld, who ushered in Massachusetts' landmark education reform act, conceded because he said he feared pressing his case could threaten President Clinton's relationship with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, in particular the president's dealings with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Mr. Helms chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. He successfully blocked Mr. Weld's confirmation to the post.

Mr. Weld, a moderate Republican, left the governor's office July 28 to campaign for Senate approval. Shortly before resigning, he signed a law doubling the number of charter schools in his state from 25 to 50. The former governor has hinted recently that a bid for the presidency could be in his future.

Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, meanwhile, has advanced the state's education reform efforts and recently proposed that, beginning in this school year, schools send home school "report cards," detailing their total student performance and school funding.

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