News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
States Flush With Welfare-Reform Dollars
Putting welfare recipients to work is paying off for most states, according to a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office.
More money--$4.7 billion more--has been available to states under the 1996 federal welfare-reform law than would have been available under the previous system, says "Welfare Reform: Early Fiscal Effects of the TANF Block Grant," which was released last week. TANF refers to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
All of the 10 states visited by GAO researchers planned to use at least some of their surplus to help those now on public assistance become more self-sufficient. Job-placement services and child care are two of the programs being expanded. States have also been able to shift state funds that would have been used for welfare toward other budget priorities, including education.
Texas Announces Ratings for Alternative Schools
The Texas Education Agency says more than 100 of the state's public alternative schools must take part in a peer-review process because they are not meeting their academic performance goals.
This month, the state agency issued ratings on 405 of the schools under an alternative accountability system, in which each campus could apply to be rated according to criteria designed specifically for such institutions. The state's performance indicators included the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores, dropout and attendance rates, course-completion rates, and completion rates for the General Educational Development program.
In addition, the ratings took into account objectives that had been adopted by each school. Of the schools rated, 278 were deemed acceptable, 106 needed peer reviews, and 21 were not rated because of a lack of data. The peer-review schools will undergo periodic on-site visits from teams of educators trained in the state's school accreditation process, officials said.
--KAREN L. ABERCROMBIE
Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 18