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The gap between high-spending and low-spending school districts in Connecticut has narrowed since 1986, when the state significantly raised local school aid, according to a report by a private watchdog group.

But in Michigan, where lawmakers are continuing to debate a plan to revise the state-aid system, the education department has found that the per-pupil spending gap has widened in the past year.

The Connecticut Public Expenditure Council report found that in 1986-87 the 9th-highest-spending district--Hamden--spent 50 percent more per pupil than Pomfret, ranked 161st in spending. Three years earlier, the Hamden district spent 80 percent more per pupil than Pomfret, it noted.

The group attributed the closing of the spending gap to the legislature's decision two years ago to increase state aid to raise teachers' salaries.

The Michigan report found that the highest-spending district, the 61-pupil Whitefish Township Schools, spent $6,946 per pupil in 1986-87, while the lowest-spending district, Kingsley, spent $2,028 per pupil. The $4,918 spending difference compares with a $4,100 difference between the two districts in 1985-86.

Officials in only 10 Tennessee school districts say they are interested in using a new state law to establish drug-testing programs for their students, a survey by the state education department has found.

Fifty-two districts said they did not plan to adopt a drug-testing policy, 10 said they were considering such action, and 3 said they wanted "to wait until the state develops a model policy before they decide," according to Sidney Owen, a spokesman for the department. Fewer than half of the state's 140 districts responded to the survey.

Last April, lawmakers passed a measure that made Tennessee the first state to permit districts to force students suspected of abusing drugs to submit to testing. (See Education Week, May 11, 1988.)

The American Civil Liberties Union has said that it will file suit challenging the law's constitutionality after a district begins testing.

Four districts have already adopted drug-testing policies, including the Hancock County system in rural eastern Tennessee. Michael Antrican, the district's superintendent, said the policy is intended "to eliminate a problem before it gets started."

Mr. Antrican said he thought many districts were reluctant to adopt similar policies because of the drug tests' high costs and a fear of being sued.

The Kentucky Department of Education is sponsoring a survey of school employees in an effort to gauge the prevalence of "kinship" connections in hiring.

The voluntary survey will be sent to 70,000 teachers, school-bus drivers, cooks, and other school personnel to determine the relationships such employees had at the time they were hired to state legislators, local elected officials, superintendents, school-board members, principals, and central-office staff members.

"We don't want to use the term 'nepotism' because that automatically implies favoritism," said Tom Mowery, chief executive assistant to the state school chief, John Brock. "We do have a perceived problem of nepotism in our school districts and this survey is an attempt to get some facts on the table."

Mr. Mowery is conducting the survey for his doctoral dissertation.

Respondents will be guaranteed anonymity, Mr. Mowery said. But he acknowledged that because the survey is voluntary and relies on superintendents for the proper delivery of questionnaires, there will be no way to guarantee that it reflects the full scope of the problem.

The department has provided $5,000 to conduct the survey; the results are expected in December.

Idaho's state school chief has created a task force to make recommendations on the politically sensitive topic of school consolidation.

State Superintendent Jerry L. Evans created the panel, which held its first meeting this month, in anticipation of legislative action on the issue next year, said Gus Hein, the state's assistant superintendent.

The Senate passed a measure last spring that would have forced some districts to consolidate, but it was blocked in the House by the chairman of the education committee.

The Nebraska Board of Education has approved guidelines for a new outcome-based school-accreditation system mandated by the legislature.

The new system will measure the quality of individual schools by examining their students' performance on college-entrance examinations, their dropout rate, and how students fare after graduation, in addition to other measures.

Parents, teachers, and students may also be asked if they are "satisfied" with the quality of education provided by their school.

In order to gauge statewide progress, the board's guidelines also call for the annual testing of a sample of students.

Currently, Nebraska schools are accredited on the basis of such items as student-staff ratios, the number of books in a school library, and whether teachers are properly prepared for the classes they teach. The legislature had ordered that the new system be in place by July 1, 1989.

About 2 percent of Idaho's high-school seniors either dropped out or did not earn diplomas last year because they failed to maintain a C average as required by law, a recent survey of principals indicates.

The law, which took effect with the class of 1988, requires students to earn a grade of C in 14 courses, including English, speech, reading, and mathematics.

According to the survey by the state education department, principals said that 1.8 percent of last year's seniors either dropped out or failed to graduate as a result of the requirement. The survey did not ask whether students other than seniors were affected by the rule.

Vol. 09, Issue 04

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