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Florida school districts should be allowed to choose which areas of their budgets to cut if a reduction in state aid becomes necessary, the state education commissioner has advised the governor.

Commissioner Betty Castor made the recommendation in response to Gov. Robert Martinez's request last month that all state-agency heads identify how they would trim spending by 5 percent should the need arise during the next fiscal year.

Ms. Castor declined to identify specific programs, suggesting instead that the legislature ease education mandates and let districts decide how to respond to cuts in funding.

David Voss, a spokesman for Ms. Castor, said there was no indication that budget cuts would be required next year. Governor Martinez is scheduled to submit his spending plan for the next fiscal year in April.

Meanwhile, Ms. Castor was also moving to address the question of whether state and local testing requirements have "gone too far," Mr. Voss said. The commissioner last month created a task force to consider the issue.

The state tests all students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 annually, and selects a sample of students each year to take a norm-referenced test. It also has begun testing high-school students to determine their achievement in several required courses.

Thomas Fisher, director of the state's testing program, said the panel would also examine test requirements at the local level. Mr. Fisher said the state currently does not know how many tests districts require.

The 25-member study group is expected to issue its recommendations next December.

Minnesota's lieutenant governor is scheduled to deliver a "state of the child" address this week that will call for $65.7 million in state spending for new child-care and dropout-prevention initiatives.

In her speech in the rotunda of the state Capitol, Lieut. Gov. Marlene Johnson is expected to propose extending the coverage of the state's Children's Health Plan to all children up to the age of 18. The plan, which took effect last year, offers all poor children between the ages of 1 and 8 a range of preventive services for $25 a year.

Ms. Johnson had sought permission to present her plan during a special joint session of the legislature. House and Senate leaders denied that request, however, on the grounds that joint sessions should be reserved for such occasions as the governor's State of the State Message.

Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois says he will not renew his call to raise state taxes to support education if key state politicians--including Chicago's next mayor--fail to support him.

The Governor's repeated calls for a tax increase have been rebuffed in recent years by legislators. Many have said they would not support an increase in aid for the Chicago Public Schools until the troubled system was completely overhauled.

At a press conference last month, the Governor said that last year's landmark law aimed at improving the district's schools should address such concerns.

Vol. 08, Issue 19

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