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The minimum salary for Pennsylvania teachers would be boosted to $21,000 a year, under a controversial measure approved last month by a House committee.

The legislation, approved by a vote of 16 to 5, would increase the state-mandated minimum salary from its current level of $18,500. It would also set aside $5.1 million in state funds to reimburse school districts that would have to raise salaries in order to meet the new minimum.

The increase was proposed by Gov. Robert P. Casey in his budget message this year.

Critics argue, however, that the bill would undermine the state's collective-bargaining laws and place an added financial burden on districts, many of which are already facing funding problems as the result of a new state plan to shift more of the costs for special education to local systems.

"It's up to the locals to determine what salaries are," said Representative Alice S. Langtry. "This is just 'Big Brother."'

South Carolina teachers and other state employees will be able to retire at age 55 with 25 years of service and receive limited benefits, under a measure approved by the legislature.

The measure is not expected to affect many teachers, because most8have accumulated 30 years of service by age 55, according to the bill's sponsors. It could be attractive, however, to people who began teaching relatively late in life.

State employees currently are eligible for full retirement benefits at age 60 or after 30 years of service.

The new law would penalize those who retire early by forcing them to pay for their own health insurance until they reach age 60 or the point at which they would have put in 30 years of service.

The measure also would reduce early retirees' benefits by 4 percent for each year they left the system early.

Grade standards for a scholarship program designed to help low-income Louisiana students attend college would be raised, under a bill approved by a House committee.

The program, which was first proposed by a prominent oil-company executive, Patrick F. Taylor, guarantees free tuition at state colleges and universities for high-school graduates who meet its academic and financial criteria. (See Education Week, April 11, 1990.)

Since getting the plan adopted in Louisiana, Mr. Taylor has been working to bring it to other states. Indiana established a program modeled on his proposal this spring, and Florida lawmakers approved a similar project during their recent session.

Currently in Louisiana, applicants must have earned a 2.5 grade-point average, out of a possible 4.0, on a college-preparatory curriculum in order to be eligible for the aid. The committee voted last month to raise the grade-point standard to 3.5.

Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody has criticized the change, however. He argues that the proposal would alter the original intent of the program by turning it into one for "the academically elite."

The Kentucky Education Association has decided to mount a legal challenge to a provision of the state's new school-reform law that bars teachers from participating in school-board elections.

The kea argues that the prohibition, which covers other school workers as well, is an infringement of employees' basic rights as citizens. Union lobbyists fought strenuously against the provision during legislative action on the reform measure this spring, but without success.

Advocates of the ban maintain that it will help curb what observers have described as the rampant politicization of some school districts in the state.

The kea's board of directors agreed last month to file a lawsuit aimed at overturning the provision as a violation of the First and 14th Amendments.

Vol. 09, Issue 38

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