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Published in Print: June 21, 2000, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Arizona Senate OKs Amended Plan To Raise Sales Tax To Pay for More School Spending

The Arizona Senate passed an amended version of Gov. Jane Dee Hull's $450 million education plan last week during a special session, sending the bill to an uncertain fate in the House.

The Arizona Senate passed an amended version of Gov. Jane Dee Hull's $450 million education plan last week during a special session, sending the bill to an uncertain fate in the House.

Senators voted 24-5 for the governor's proposal on June 15, putting it a step closer to a place on the November ballot. But the bill lawmakers passed was dramatically different from the Republican governor's original plan. ("Ariz. Lawmakers Reconvene To Tackle School Finance," June 7, 2000.)

The measure was amended 22 times during a June 13 floor session. The amended Senate plan calls for scaling back the governor's proposed 0.06 percent increase in the state sales tax to 0.04 percent, and making up the difference with $150 million from the state's general fund.

Other amendments included: a provision calling for more instruction in character education; an increase in the tax credit for donations earmarked for private-school scholarships; the creation of a state-level school audit team; and a measure prohibiting out-of-field teaching.

The second draft of the governor's plan now awaits consideration in the House, where it faces staunch opposition from conservatives led by Speaker of the House Jeff Groscost, whose own education plan doesn't include a tax increase.

—Darcia Harris Bowman


Iowa's Interest in Certification Drops as Bonus Does

Last year, Iowa lawmakers cut in half the state bonus promised to teachers who win certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This year, the number of Iowa applicants for the yearlong assessment declined by nearly half—from 228 in 1998-99 to 124 in 1999-2000.

Still, educators say the drop in applications probably has more to do with uncertainty about the legislature's commitment to the program than lack of interest in the reduced incentive.

Hawkeye State lawmakers originally offered a $5,000 a year bonus over the 10-year life of the national certification, for a total of $50,000. Last year, saying they were concerned about sustaining the payouts, they lowered the extra money to $2,500 a year. That figure is about the median amount among the 29 states with bonus programs, according to Mary-Dean Barringer, a vice president of the national board.

"I think in the next couple of years, the teachers will feel that the policymakers are committed to this, and the applications will pick up," Ms. Barringer said.

Nationally, the number of applicants for the program increased by 55 percent from the last school year to this one, with Iowa showing the only significant decline.

—Bess Keller


Virginia Gov. Names State's 1st Female Schools Chief

Gov. James S. Gilmore III scored a first this month when he picked a woman to run the state's school system.

Jo Lynne DeMary, currently the acting state schools chief, is the first woman to be named the permanent superintendent of public instruction in Virginia since the department was set up in 1871. Ms. DeMary, who also served for six years as an assistant superintendent before she became acting superintendent in December, has helped lead the state's standards-based initiatives.

Her primary duties will be to oversee the continued implementation of the annual exams that are based on Virginia's Standards of Learning. She will also be responsible for directing the overall operations of a system with 132 school districts and 1.1 million students.

In making his appointment earlier this month, Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, praised Ms. DeMary for being "a strong proponent of the standards." Kirk Schroder, the state school board president, said her "strength is the fact that she is an outstanding instructional leader, which is critical for today's education reforms."

Virginia's high-stakes tests have been widely praised by education experts around the country. But they have also been criticized by many teachers and parents in the state for concentrating too heavily on the memorization of facts.

—Jessica Portner

Vol. 19, Issue 41, Page 27

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