News In Brief

May 13, 1992 3 min read
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Several powerful Georgia legislators have come under fire for allegedly using a secret account to fund school projects in their own districts and those of their allies.

Lieut. Gov. Pierre Howard last week demanded written explanations from legislative staff members after The Associated Press broke a story on the existence of the fund, which allegedly is hidden in the budget bill and was not discussed during recent budget talks.

This year, the wire service reported, nearly $450,000 was set aside under a line item called “special projects’’ to pay for such items as lights at a ball field and a greenhouse at a vocational school in the districts of prominent House members.

Gov. Zell Miller has vetoed the legislature’s attempt to put $500,000 into the account for next year, saying he did not know how the money got into the budget or how it would be spent.

Residents of Kansas City, Mo., would be required to pay a larger share of the costs of desegregating the city’s schools, under a measure being considered by the state legislature last week.

The fate of the measure appeared uncertain, however, as its sponsor, Representative Phil Tate, predicted that senators from the Kansas City area would filibuster to keep the measure from being taken up in their chamber before they adjourn on May 15.

The proposed constitutional amendment, passed by the House on a 92-to-56 vote late last month, would give the Kansas City Board of Education six months to decide among several local tax plans to fund desegregation in the district.

If the board failed to act, residents and businesses in the district would be required to pay a 25 percent surcharge on their state income taxes to fund the district’s efforts.

Mr. Tate, a Democrat from Gallatin, said he proposed the amendment because the state this year will have paid $100 million in court-ordered desegregation costs that he believes should have been borne by the district.

If passed by the Senate, the proposed amendment would be on the ballot in November.

The Arizona House has decisively rejected two key elements of Gov. Fife Symington’s education-reform package, despite warnings from supporters of reform that each element of the plan depends on the others.

The Republican Governor’s reform measures, which reflect the recommendations of a statewide task force, were drafted to be interdependent and introduced as six separate bills, three in each house of the legislature.

But House lawmakers last month rejected, on a 31-to-28 vote, an open-enrollment measure that would have allowed all children to attend the school of their choice, arguing that the proposal would be costly and would accelerate “white flight’’ from public schools.

Lawmakers also defeated a teacher-training measure that would have created a board of professional standards and required prospective teachers to be tested on their teaching abilities.

Shortly after a federal judge refused to halt collections of local property taxes, Gov. Ann W. Richards of Texas announced last week that she will not call lawmakers into a spring special session, as had been expected in recent weeks.

“We have not found a consensus of support for any education-finance plan, so there is no reason for the state to spend a million dollars on a special session,’' the Governor said.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge James Nowlin said that halting collection of disputed local property taxes would “have a disastrous effect’’ on the state’s students.

The state supreme court earlier this year struck down the tax--the state legislature’s second attempt to revise its flawed school-finance system. The state court gave lawmakers until next year to devise a new system to replace the tax.

James G. Hunt Jr., the former Governor of North Carolina, easily won that state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary last week and will face Lieut. Gov. Jim Gardner in the November general election.

Mr. Hunt, who served as Governor from 1977 to 1985, chaired the Education Commission of the States during part of his tenure and is currently the elected chairman of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Both nominees easily won their primaries, Mr. Gardner with 82 percent and Mr. Hunt with 65 percent of the vote. The closest Democratic challenger was Attorney General Lacy Thornburg, who tallied 27 percent of the vote.

James G. Martin, the current Republican Governor, is prohibited by state law from seeking a third term.

A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 1992 edition of Education Week as News In Brief


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