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For the second time in about six months, North Dakota voters have rejected a proposal to raise state taxes for education.

A ballot initiative calling for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax was defeated last week after gaining 41 percent of the vote.

The proposal would have raised an estimated $42 million, which would have been used to restore deep cuts in education spending made by the state this year.

The cuts were made necessary after state voters in December refused to accept a series of tax hikes previously approved by the legislature.

Last week's defeat left educators, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne G. Sanstead, discouraged about the prospects for school funding in the state.

"You have to ask questions when you've lost two elections in a row,'' he said. "It portends a pretty dismal future."

Mr. Sanstead noted that state-aid cuts--which will total $228 per pupil over the biennium--have already forced school districts to lay off more than 300 teachers, as well as classroom aides, librarians, and other employees.

"It will be felt even more next year," he added.

The education committee of the Pennsylvania House has rejected a state education department proposal calling for sweeping changes in the funding of special-education programs.

The proposed funding formula was crafted in response to a crisis over mounting deficits in state spending for special education. It would control costs by placing limits on per-pupil reimbursements to school districts for special education. (See Education Week, Feb. 14, 1990.)

But members of the education panel said the proposed funding plan was unfair to districts because it was based on outdated cost estimates. They also warned that limiting the payments could encourage districts to lessen the quality of services to some handicapped students.

On a different issue, the panel has approved a measure setting aside grants to help districts reduce the sizes of some elementary classes. Under the proposal, districts would be encouraged to hold K-3 classes to as few as 15 students.

Representative Ronald R. Cowell, chairman of the committee, said he hoped to make the class-size measure a part of next year's budget.

Vol. 09, Issue 39

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