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Despite opposition from key legislators, the Texas board of education has voted to resume state funding for vocational-education programs in junior high schools.

Arguing that the program was useful in lowering the dropout rate, board members voted 8 to 6 on Sept. 9 to reverse a previous decision that would have cut off $1 million in state aid to vocational programs serving some 13,000 7th and 8th graders, said Richard LaGow, a spokesman for the Texas Education Agency.

The Legislative Education Board, an oversight panel consisting of top lawmakers, previously had urged board of education members to halt the program, contending it was "used as a dumping ground" for low-achieving students, said Mr. LaGow.

Commissioner of Education William N. Kirby had recommended that the board wait until next year before reinstating the funding. That would have given the state education department time to develop guidelines for the program, Mr. LaGow explained.

The Indiana board of education has adopted a set of goals to improve student performance in the state over the next four years.

As part of the state's "A+ Program" enacted in 1987, the legislature directed the board to set goals for reducing the percentage of students requiring remedial instruction; raising student test scores; and increasing the rates of attendance, graduation, college enrollment, and parental involvement.

Specific goals adopted by the board this month include:

Increasing by at least 10 points the median national percentile ranking of Indiana students on a statewide standardized test;

Reducing by 5 percent a year the number of students scoring below state achievement standards;

Increasing the number of students enrolled in college by 3 percent to 5 percent annually, and earning a rank of at least second in college enrollment in comparison to five other Midwestern states;

Increasing the high-school graduation rate by 1 percent a year, to reach 84 percent by 1993;

Achieving a 95 percent attendance rate by 1993; and

Bolstering parental involvement in education and promoting such activities as volunteer services, home tutoring, school advocacy, and information exchanges for parents.

The Arizona education department should identify sources of funding for a preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds, a task force has urged.

The 28-member panel, appointed in January by Superintendent of Public Instruction C. Diane Bishop, said in a report to the board of education last month that the department should initially launch the program as a pilot, making services available to children of varying income levels on a sliding-fee basis.

The panel urged the department to "develop the necessary expertise and networks" to ensure the program is of high quality and to foster coordination with existing programs.

To ensure that programs are "not simply downward extensions of kindergarten," the group recommended mandating that teachers be trained in early-childhood development.

Maine should completely shift the financing of public schools from local property taxes to statewide taxes by the year 2000, the Commission on Maine's Future has urged.

The recommendation was one a series of proposals on education, the environment, and technology contained in the 40-member commission's final report, issued this month.

As the state's population ages, the report contends, fewer households will have children, and so will be less willing to support public schools. By eliminating the property tax in favor of broader state taxes, it argues, the burden on the older generation of supporting education will be diminished.

A North Dakota judge has dismissed a lawsuit by school administrators aimed at forcing the state to spend part of an unexpected budget surplus on education.

The administrators sought to restore the $7.6 million in school aid that had been cut last summer when drought prompted fears of a budget shortfall. Income- and sales-tax revenues were larger than expected, however, and resulted in a $31.5-million surplus.

Dale G. Duggan, president of the North Dakota Association of School Administrators, said the suit questions "whether the budget director and the governor have the authority to cut the budget," and if so, whether they are required to restore funding "when the money is there." The group filed an appeal last week.

Vol. 09, Issue 03

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