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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Pa. State Board Passes New Academic Standards

Pennsylvania's state board of education has approved new academic standards in reading, writing, and mathematics for students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 11.

The package will replace the state's current set of "student learning outcomes," which some have criticized as too vague since their adoption in 1993.

"With this vote, we set the bar of achievement high for our schools and for our students," state Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok said in a written statement.

Republican Gov. Tom Ridge created an advisory commission on academic standards two years ago to set the new learning objectives. The plan must now go through a legal-review process, which is expected to be completed by fall.

The new standards, and the assessments that will be aligned with them, will take effect one year after that process is completed, or by the fall of 1999. Meanwhile, the state education department is drafting standards in science, technology, history, and other areas.

Funding for Md. Desegregation Deal Approved

The Maryland legislature has approved a three-year, $145 million spending package to help Prince George's County build the schools needed to settle a 26-year-old desegregation suit and return to a system of neighborhood schools.

Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening last week signaled his intention to sign the capital budget that includes the new money, even though county officials say it won't be enough to pay for the proposed settlement of the lawsuit filed by the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Officials in the suburban Washington county estimate that state aid will pay for only 13 of the 16 schools the deal requires the 125,000-student district to build.

"We'll go with what [money] we have and get more in the future," said Leonard L. Lucchi, the state lobbyist for County Executive Wayne K. Curry, a Democrat.

Prince George's County and NAACP officials present their settlement proposal to a federal judge for approval next month.

Ga. Regents OK Teacher Training Guarantees

New teachers in Georgia who don't live up to the expectations of the school systems that hire them will be retrained at no cost to the districts. That is one of 10 new principles adopted April 7 by the state board of regents in an effort to ensure that teachers graduating from Georgia's university system are qualified for the classroom.

The guarantee will apply only to those teachers who were schooled in the 15 accredited teacher education programs offered by the state's public colleges and universities. And any retraining that is needed will be available only in the first two years after a teacher graduates. The guarantee also will only apply to teachers who are working in the field for which they were trained.

Other principles include making sure that new teachers are trained to teach children from diverse backgrounds, seeking to attract high-achieving students to teacher education programs, and ensuring that graduates from early-childhood programs are skilled in teaching reading and mathematics.

In the next few months, the board will craft specific plans to implement the principles.

Report Says N.Y. Lottery Does Little for Schools

A highly critical report released last week argues that, despite a popular perception that New York's state lottery guarantees greater spending on schools, the games do little to increase education funding in the Empire State.

Although the lottery generates more than $1.6 billion a year, it contributes only about 5.3 percent of total spending by local districts, reported State Comptroller H. Carl McCall. His report shows that lottery money replaces, rather than supplements, other revenue used to aid schools. The formula that determines how much state funding schools receive is set without regard to lottery revenues.

An examination of more than 30 years of state school aid and lottery-revenue trends showed that increased ticket sales have not generally coincided with a rise in the percentage of total school funding paid for by the state. Instead, the comptroller said, lottery-revenue growth has been used to close state budget gaps and has even coincided with proposed cuts in school aid.

"By dedicating it to education, there is an implied promise that the lottery will increase school aid," the report says. "This has never happened in New York."

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