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Iowa Panel Votes To Repeal State Tax Credit for Tuition

An Iowa legislative committee has voted to rescind a tax break for tuition expenses granted to parents in a controversial measure last year.

The House ways and means panel approved a bill to repeal the credit on a 20-to-6 vote on March 16, sending the measure to the full House for debate.

Proponents of the repeal said it would save the state $3.5 million next year. They also argued that lawmakers had not had a chance to vote on the merits of the tax credit, which was adopted last May on the last day of the legislative session.

A provision establishing the tax break was attached to the legislature's main appropriations bill at the last minute. The measure, which also provided significant pay raises for teachers, passed by a one-vote margin.

Under the provision, parents can claim an state-income-tax credit of 5 percent on the first $1,000 spent, per child, for tuition and textbook fees at a private or public school. Or, if the parents itemize their deductions, they can deduct from their tax liability up to $1,000 per child for such expenses.

Families with adjusted gross incomes of more than $45,000 a year are not eligible for the credits.

"We were angered that we never had a chance to vote yes or no on the tax credit,'' state Representative Phil L. Wise, who introduced the repeal legislation, said last week.

Moreover, he said, lawmakers are looking for ways to balance the state's $2.6-billion budget for next year.

The revenue that would be gained by abolishing the credit "doesn't appear to make much of a dent,'' he acknowledged, "but we are down to the point of looking at places to cut a few million.''

Although the measure is eligible for debate in the full House until the end of the session in late April, some education lobbyists who support the repeal said its prospects for approval were slim.

Deukmejian Signs Measure Setting School-Bond Vote

Gov. George Deukmejian has signed legislation that will place an $800-million school-construction bond issue before California voters on the June ballot.

Under an agreement reached earlier this year between the Governor and legislative leaders, a second $800-million bond issue for school construction is also likely to appear on the November ballot.

Voters in the two elections could face requests for a record $5.4 billion in state-sponsored bond issues to fund capital improvements in a wide variety of programs, including transportation, low-income housing, prisons, libraries, and higher education.

As part of a compromise to ensure the bill's passage, the legislature also amended the state's developer-fees law, which allows school districts to assess fees for school construction from builders, based on the amount of new residential and commercial construction in the district.

As approved in 1986, the law allowed districts that had unsuccessfully sought passage of bond issues for school construction to ignore a legislative ceiling on the rate of assessment for new construction. The compromise approved this month extends the maximum rate ceiling to all districts, regardless of the outcome of their bond referenda.

PACE Disputes Findings On Black Achievement

A controversial study that found lagging rates of achievement among black students in Los Angeles-area high schools is flawed because it compared "apples with oranges,'' a group of researchers that reviewed the report has concluded.

The review by Policy Analysis for California Education found what analysts said were several methodological errors in the original study, conducted by the University of Chicago's Metropolitan Opportunity Project.

The Chicago researchers based their conclusions on data from student-achievement tests collected over a 10-year period.

That methodology was faulty, the PACE reviewers concluded. For example, they said, the types of schools included in the test-score data varied over the period studied, making a straight comparison of the scores invalid.

The original study, part of a broad look at opportunities for minorities in five metropolitan areas, concluded that state reform efforts had not benefited poor and minority students in the Los Angeles area.

It sparked immediate criticism from state officials, who charged that its conclusions were erroneous and would contribute ammunition to foes of the state's reform movement. (See Education Week, Nov. 4, 1987.)

The review by PACE, a nonprofit university-based research consortium, found that achievement-test scores for black students in metropolitan Los Angeles had risen steadily during the three years following the enactment of a statewide school-reform package in 1983.

Washington State has launched a $1.5-million program to provide literacy training for parents of at-risk students.

The pilot project, called "Even Start,'' is the first statewide effort of its kind in the nation, Gov. Booth Gardner and the state's school chief, Frank B. Brouillet, said in announcing the program this month.

State officials expect that 1,165 parents will receive instruction and, in turn, help their preschool and school-age children acquire language skills.

"Even Start'' was approved in the 1987 legislative session. Officials estimate that as many as 400,000 Washington parents need such assistance. If the pilot effort proves successful, they said, it may be expanded.

After rejecting several proposals to restructure the New York City board of education, Mel Miller, speaker of the New York State Assembly, has put forth a plan of his own that would eliminate board members' salaries, personal staffs, and transportation perquisites.

The measure is designed to remove incentives for board members to interfere in the day-to-day operation of the school system and to bolster the autonomy of Richard R. Green, the recently inaugurated city schools chancellor, according to the speaker's press secretary.

Critics of the New York City schools have charged that the board spends too much time on routine matters and too little devising long-range policies and improvements.

A bill that would outlaw electronic paging devices in Tennessee schools has cleared the state Senate's education committee with no opposition and will come before the full chamber for debate this week.

Police officials have charged that students who work for drug dealers carry the "beepers'' to school so they can be paged to make drug deliveries. Several urban school districts nationwide have either banned or are considering bans on student possession of the devices.

Students who have a legitimate reason for carrying a beeper may be exempted from the prohibition if the bill becomes law, according to a spokesman for the state board of education.

To help lower the dropout rate in Arkansas, school officials should consider clarifying discipline policies, adopting alternatives to corporal punishment, and establishing intervention programs for truant students, a state task force has concluded.

The recommendations were included in a recent report by the Task Force on Youth at Risk, a panel of educators, legislators, and representatives of business and youth-services groups appointed a year ago by Gov. Bill Clinton.

The panel also advised the state education department to expand its database on dropouts and suspensions; require school officials to interview dropouts within two weeks of the time that they quit school; and work more closely with other governmental agencies, youth-service providers, and employment and training programs.

Vol. 07, Issue 27

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