State Journal: Cuts in a memorial; Suggestions welcome

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Faced with a steep decline in revenues, members of the New Hampshire House recently took a step that would have been unthinkable just a year ago--they voted to slice funding for a new planetarium named in honor of Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the Concord teacher who was killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Gov. Judd Gregg had proposed earmarking $500,000 in operating expenses for the memorial, which is still under construction and is set to open next February. The House reduced that figure by $100,000 after some members suggested the entire amount might be better spent on education or child health care.

"Let's face it, Christa was a teacher," said Representative Marion Copenhaver. "New Hampshire ranks 50th in the nation in aid to education and 27th with our dropout rate. I think we're the only state that doesn't mandate kindergarten. We'd be better off addressing those problems."

The state had previously allocated $2.5 million for the planetarium's construction.

The Senate is expected to vote on the spending measure later this month. The legislature is set to adjourn on May 25.

Mississippi's governor has invited some 2,000 education, business, and community leaders to weigh in with their thoughts on how to reform the state's public-school system.

In letters sent to the influential Mississippians this month, Gov. Raymond Mabus identified the "gaps" he believes were left in the state's prior reform programs and several topics he wants the legislature to address in a special session he plans to call in late fall or early winter.

Mr. Mabus asked the leaders for their help "in achieving a consensus on goals, objectives, and policy initiatives that can translate our common desire for educational excellence into concrete reform proposals."

In an accompanying document, the Governor argued that raising student achievement is the key to improving Mississippi's economic condition. "To lose ground [in education] is to lose jobs and income," he said.

Potential topics to be addressed during the special session include: school finance and governance; remediation; teacher pay; early-childhood development; adult illiteracy; and at-risk children.

Mr. Mabus said he would hold a series of meetings with state leaders between now and June and would issue a report in August summarizing their recommendations. He said he would present the suggestions in the form of legislation in October.--tm

Vol. 08, Issue 34

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