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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Utah Approves Funds for Class-Size Reduction

After weeks of political wrangling, Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt's No. 1 education priority in his fiscal 1998-99 budget--class-size reduction for middle schools--got most of the money the governor requested, just days before the legislature adjourned last week.

Mr. Leavitt unveiled details of his plan, along with his proposed budget in December. The $13.6 million he had requested for smaller classes was to serve as the first of three payments to reduce sizes in grades 6 through 8, which now average 28 students.

Earlier in the week, lawmakers had only found $5 million for the Republican governor's plan. That amount, according to state estimates, would only have lowered class sizes by an average of one student. But after scraping $3 million from a tire-recycling fund and $1 million from an education reserve account for school administrators, the legislature managed to put together $9 million.

Wyoming Gov. Signs Finance Plan Into Law

Hoping to put an end to litigation over Wyoming's school finance system, Gov. Jim Geringer has signed a funding-reform bill into law.

The new law, signed last week, increases school district funding from the state by $76.5 million a year increasing the education budget to $632.3 million which is $39.7 million more than current education funding. It also establishes student assessment standards, and renews the state's commitment to local control by districts.

It is part of a continuing effort to comply with the 1995 state supreme court decision that declared the funding system unconstitutional. The court required the state to pay for schools based on the cost of an adequate education. ("Turmoil in Wyoming: School Funding Back in Court," Nov. 5, 1997.)

The law is a fine-tuned version of a finance-reform plan approved by lawmakers last June. Several districts and the Wyoming Education Association had filed suit against the state for failing to implement the new plan by the court's deadline of last July 1.

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