News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
S.C. Lawmakers Pass $1.1 Billion Bond Bill
A $1.1 billion bond bill for school and college building projects has squeaked through the South Carolina House in what some observers are calling the most contentious vote since last November's elections.
Members of the House passed the bill on a 58-57 vote May 20. Nine Republicans voted for the measure; three Democrats opposed it. In contrast, the Senate had passed the bill unanimously a week earlier. First-term Gov. Jim Hodges, a Democrat, was expected to sign it this week.
Under the terms of the legislation, some $750 million would be used to improve and build K-12 schools, and $300 million would go for projects in higher education, said Tim Rogers, the director of research for the House and Senate Joint Bond Review Committee.
Two Kansas Districts Sue Over Funding Formula
Two Kansas school districts have sued the state, challenging the legality of its school funding formula on civil rights grounds.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita on May 21, the districts argue that the funding formula discriminates against their minority, English-as-a-second-language, and disabled students because the districts receive less funding than more homogeneous systems with more white students and fewer students with disabilities and in ESL programs.
The plaintiff Dodge City and Salina districts--which have enrollments of 5,100 and 7,500 students respectively--are supported by 14 other midsize districts with enrollments of between 1,725 and 9,000. The lawsuit contends that the state is discriminating by giving smaller and larger districts with more homogeneous enrollments an unfair share of state school money. Districts smaller than 1,725 receive extra money through a weighted funding formula that takes smaller districts' low enrollments into account, and larger districts are compensated based on other factors within the state funding formula.
The state supreme court upheld the funding formula after it was challenged in a 1992 suit.
Rod Beiker, the general counsel for the state education department, said that the process might "drag out a bit," but that the formula would likely again be upheld.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 18, Issue 38, Page 15