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State education officials in Idaho say they hope their pledge to report on how districts use a proposed $20-million school-improvement fund will help boost total education funding during the next legislative session.

The unusual promise was outlined at a meeting of the state board of education last month, when members agreed to request $397.7 million for precollegiate education for the next fiscal year--11.7 percent more than this year's budget.

School officials say that if the improvement fund wins approval by the legislature, districts would be asked at the end of the first year exactly how they had spent their share. The education department would then describe how the money was spent to legislators considering the following year's appropriation, according to Robert Dutton, associate superintendent for finance and administration.

Under the state board's plan, money from the improvement fund would be distributed according to the state's aid formula at a rate of $100 per pupil.

Districts would be able to spend the money on efforts to improve their curriculum and to boost graduation rates. They could also use the additional funds to purchase equipment.

Career-Ladder Decisions Often Changed on Appeal

More than half of the appeals by teachers under Tennessee's career-ladder system have been changed by state review officers and an administrative law judge, according to a state-board report.

Decisions by peer and administrative evaluators were changed in 56 percent of the 1,565 appeals reviewed between 1984 and 1987, according to the report, which has been submitted to a legislative education-oversight8committee.

Under the career-ladder system, a teacher who is not satisfied with an evaluation may seek a hearing before a judge. At stake for most teachers is a pay increase ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Charles W. Cagle, a spokesman for the state board, said most of the cases that were overturned were filed during the system's first year. ''Just like any new program, there are going to be mistakes made," he said.

In 1984-85, the first year of the program, there were 704 appeals. In 1985-86, the number of appeals dropped to 225. In 1986-87, the number of appeals rose to 636, because the program was expanded to evaluate twice as many teachers as in each of the previous years, Mr. Cagle said.

State-board members said they were concerned about the length of the appeals process. For example, about 50 cases are still pending from the 1985-86 school year, and 115 cases from 1986-87.

The board has submitted a budget request that includes funds to hire a second administrative law judge. It said its goal is to complete appeals within a year.

Gov. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania has signed legislation increasing the state's minimum salary for teachers for the first time in 25 years.

Teachers' unions praised the legislation, which raises the minimum salary to $18,500 from the minimum of $6,000 set in 1963. The increase is expected to affect an estimated 3,000 teachers in about 154 districts.

The measure also provides cash incentives to high-performing schools and adjusts the state school-aid formula to channel more funds to poor and smaller districts.

The School Performance Incentives program created by the bill will provide $5 million in cash bonuses to schools that show improvement in student achievement, a reduction in dropout rates, and higher Scholastic Aptitude Test scores.

In addition, districts will receive state-aid increases ranging from 2 percent to 8 percent under the bill.

New Jersey's attorney general has asked the state school chief to reject an administrative-law judge's recommendations for revamping the school-aid system.

Attorney General W. Cary Edwards last month filed a 95-page response to Judge Steven L. Lefelt's August ruling with the school commissioner, Saul A. Cooperman.

Marilyn J. Morheuser, a lawyer for the children named in the suit, also filed a petition with Mr. Cooperman urging him to leave the ruling intact.

The commissioner, who has the authority to accept, reject, or modify Judge Lefelt's recommendations, is not expected to announce his decision until next year.

In Tennessee, meanwhile, Attorney General Charles Burson has asked a state chancery court to dismiss a school-finance suit filed by 66 rural school districts.

In the motion to dismiss the suit, Mr. Burson argued that districts have no constitutional right to a specific funding allocation for education. No hearing date has yet been set in the case.

Vol. 08, Issue 10

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