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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Mich. House Restores Vetoed Aid

By a unanimous 103-0 vote, the Michigan House passed an appropriations bill last week that would restore $252 million for local programs that reach at-risk students.

Gov. John Engler, a Republican, had vetoed the at-risk funding from the state budget earlier this year to instead pay a court-ordered settlement of $211 million to 84 school districts. The payment stems from a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that the state had underfunded school districts for state-mandated special education programs between 1991 and 1994.

Lawmakers and the governor are also trying to pay an additional $768 million to the remaining school districts, although they have not yet determined how to come up with the funding.

Mr. Engler proposed to restore $230 million of the $252 million in vetoed funds earlier in September. But the Democrat-controlled House one-upped the governor with its $252 million plan.

The Senate was expected to take up the bill Sept. 30, just one day before the start of the new fiscal year.

Ala. Governor OKs Aid To Replace Schools

Now that Gov. Fob James Jr. has approved state funding, school officials in Cullman County, Ala., will be able to complete the replacement of two schools destroyed by arson last year.

Mr. James, a Republican, signed legislation Sept. 15 containing $3 million for the effort. He had blocked an earlier funding attempt, but reconsidered after holding a town meeting in Cullman and hearing the views of local citizens, educators, and members of the school board, a spokeswoman for the governor said last week.

To supplement insurance money, local officials will apply $2 million of the state aid to finish rebuilding West Point High School and the other $1 million to build a new school that will combine the enrollments from other burned schools, said Ronald K. Whaley, the maintenance director for the Cullman County board of education.

Two former Cullman County students have been convicted on arson charges in the case, and the trial of a third is pending, Mr. Whaley said. The young men set the fires as part of a local crime spree on Labor Day weekend last year, he said.

N.H. Higher Ed. Costs Out of Reach

More of New Hampshire's high school graduates are pursuing a college education, but many of them will have trouble paying for it, says a study released last week by three higher education organizations in the state.

Over the next 10 years, the number of high school graduates in the state is expected to increase by 35 percent, the report says. But it also notes that 51 percent of the state's students can't afford tuition at a four-year state college without financial assistance, and that 93 percent can't afford tuition at the state's private colleges.

In-state students already pay the fifth-highest tuition and fees in the nation, according to the report, while for out-of-state students, tuition and fees are the second highest.

The report was prepared by the New Hampshire College and University Council, the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation, and the New Hampshire Postsecondary Education Commission. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation paid for the study.

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