News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Mo. OKs Massive Finance Package
Missouri lawmakers have approved a complex financing package for the state's two largest cities that is expected to jump-start long-stalled efforts to end St. Louis' 26-year-old desegregation case.
The legislation would insulate St. Louis from the loss of much of its court-ordered desegregation subsidies and allow its extensive city-to-suburb transfer program to continue for at least six years. Some of the funding would be contingent, however, on voters' approval of a local tax increase.
For Kansas City, the bill would replace more than a third of its annual state desegregation subsidies, which are due to end after a final $99 million payment next year.
The bill, which Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan has vowed to sign, would take effect Aug. 28.
The measure would also change the school governance structure and eliminate principals' tenure in St. Louis; authorize charter schools in both cities; and direct the state to intervene in failing schools.
Mich. Districts Sue, Again
Michigan is shortchanging school districts by $350 million in special education aid this year, according to a lawsuit filed last week by a coalition of 106 districts.
The filing comes less than a year after the Michigan Supreme Court made the state pay its districts $1 billion to settle a 17-year-old suit that charged the state had failed to adequately fund special education mandates.
Since then, state lawmakers have redistributed general per-pupil dollars to the special education budget, a move that the plaintiffs in the new case say violates constitutional funding guarantees.
"What we're trying to do is enforce the Michigan Constitution," said Dennis Pollard of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., law firm of Pollard & Albertson, which handled the first lawsuit and filed the latest suit. Under the terms of the ruling in the earlier lawsuit, the new case should go to a state appeals court this summer.
John Truscott, a spokesman for Republican Gov. John Engler, characterized the lawsuit as "completely without merit."
New Fla. Assessment Suffers Glitch
About 11,500 Florida 5th and 10th graders are still waiting to find out how they did on a January statewide exam, after a technical glitch caused mistakes on their test results.
The errors affected about 2 percent of the 550,000 students who took the exam, which is based on the state's new learning standards. The test will eventually be required for graduation and promotion. It was being offered statewide for the first time.
Brewser Brown, a spokesman for the Florida education department, said test-scanning equipment randomly misread answers. But the errors appear to have been made on questions that were correctly answered by students, which means that scores will go up.
The company that published the test, CTB/McGraw-Hill, is working on the problem."They're trying to get scores to parents as soon as possible," Mr. Brown said.
Vol. 17, Issue 37, Page 16