State Journal: Crash and Burn; Change of heart; Bigger fish to fry

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Michigan lawmakers' reaction to the latest in a series of school-finance and tax-reform plans indicates the issue remains as divisive as ever.

According to observers, members of the House laughed, groaned, and made whistling noises mimicking the sound of a bomb hurtling toward its target as the newest plan was described last month on the chamber's floor.

The plan, developed by an ad hoc task force chaired by Edgar Harden, a former president of Michigan State University, recommends increasing the state sales tax from 4 to 4.5 cents to raise $400 million in new revenues. Of that amount, $265 million would go toward equalizing spending among districts, $85 million for current reform programs, and $50 million for a new school-improvement fund.

Many lawmakers said they objected to the proposal because, unlike its legion of predecessors, it did not call for property-tax reductions.

Members of the Harden group said later that they support an additional half-cent increase in the sales tax to provide $588 million in property-tax relief to homeowners and businesses.

A Florida legislator who once supported a teacher who spanked his son has had a change of heart and is now helping promote a bill to give schools the option to ban paddling.

"This is a highly debatable issue, and it's one which, quite frankly, I have acted to kill on several occasions," said Senator Robert Johnson, chairman of the Senate education committee, prior to the panel's 7-to-2 vote to approve the bill.

Senator Johnson explained to the committee that "when I read the data of who is getting spanked in our schools, and I read the data about who is getting spanked at home, and I correlate that data to the dropouts and the failures, I cannot help but believe that we are spanking the wrong people and we are using the wrong form of administrative punishment."

Paul Hubbert, who wields tremendous influence in Alabama politics as executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, is weighing a bid for the state's highest office.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Hubbert acknowledged that he had told his staff he might be leaving the group to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

"We're feeling positive at this point, but we're not ready to make an announcement," he said.

Mr. Hubbert added that he "is in the prime of health" after undergoing a liver transplant earlier this year.--tm

Vol. 08, Issue 33

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