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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Idaho Tax-Credit Proposal Falls Flat

A proposal that would have given a $1,500 state income-tax credit to parents who send their children to private schools failed to make it out of an Idaho House committee this month.

The Revenue and Taxation committee voted 9-8 against the proposal Feb. 6, with one member absent. Some of the legislators who voted against the bill expressed uncertainty about the impact it would have on the public school system and the state's general fund.

The tax credit would have been valid only for parents with children about to enter the 1st grade and for those children in subsequent years, and for children in future incoming classes. Private school children already enrolled in higher grades would have been excluded. The state had almost 900 1st graders outside the public school system during the 1996-97 school year.

Idaho spends $4,055 per student in its public schools. The bill's sponsors said that even with a $1,500 tax credit, the state would end up spending far more than the amount of the private school tax credit on public school students. A similar plan passed the House last year but not the Senate.

Edgar Favors Scrapping State Board

Hoping to win a bigger say in education policy for the next governor of Illinois, current Gov. Jim Edgar is calling for a constitutional amendment to replace the state school board with a Cabinet-level education department.

If approved, the proposal, which the Republican governor said he would like to see on the November ballot, would likely not take effect until January 2000, according to Allen D. Grosboll, the governor's chief of staff.

Gov. Edgar, who is finishing up his second term, will leave office next January.

The change would also come after state schools chief Joseph A. Spagnolo's current contract expires.

Mr. Grosboll said the governor's intentions are "not political." Mr. Edgar wants to ensure that future governors take an active role in education and that they, rather than the state board, are held accountable for school policy.

Although several prominent lawmakers have endorsed the plan, Mr. Spagnolo said the current system helps protect his office from ever-changing political tides.

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