Iowa Panel Backs Aid Under Open Enrollment

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The Iowa Senate Education Committee has approved a bill providing temporary financial help for districts losing students under the state's open-enrollment law.

Under the 1989 open-enrollment measure, districts losing students must transfer state aid and local property taxes to the receiving district. The new bill, approved by the committee this month, would allow districts to keep the property taxes for a year after a student's transfer.

Senator John P. Kibbie, sponsor of the new legislation, warns that small districts could face bankruptcy without it. But if districts were given a year to prepare for the loss of funds, he contends, they would be able to make the necessary budget adjustments.

"If you have 10 students leave a district of 250 total, and if that represents, say, $2,000 each, that's $20,000 out of their budget," he said. "And they still have to the state minimum standards [passed in 1987] to meet."

Opponents of the bill say it violates the ideas behind the choice measure, which was to improve school performance through competition. They contend the receiving districts will need the extra funding to maintain services.

Two separate lawsuits challenging Idaho's school-finance formula should be consolidated into a single case, a state judge has ruled.

The suits were filed last year by two groups of districts, which cited different deficiencies in Idaho's sup8port for precollegiate education.

The first suit, filed by more than 30 districts, argues that the state has not provided enough money through the formula to uphold a constitutional guarantee of "free and proper" public schooling.

The second, filed by 19 districts, contends that "property poor" districts receive too small a share of state funds under the formula.

Circuit Judge Gerald Schroeder ruled that the suits ought to be consolidated because they essentially address the same issues.

Indiana schools would have the option of holding classes year-round, under a measure passed by a Senate panel this month.

The measure, cleared by the Senate Education Committee on a 7-to-1 vote, would allow school districts to operate on a three-months-on, one-month-off schedule throughout the year. Schools could opt to offer remedial or enrichment programs when classes were not in session.

Senator Steven R. Johnson, the bill's sponsor, argues that the new calendar would ease pressure on students and teachers during traditional periods of high stress in the academic cycle.

Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia has proposed a constitutional amendment that would do away with the state's system of electing local school superintendents.

The measure, which would affect 110 of the state's 184 school superintendents, calls for school boards to appoint superintendents. It also would require all school-board members to be elected.

If the Governor's proposal is approved by the legislature, it would go before state voters in 1992. Local superintendents who are on the ballot that year would be permitted to serve another term before the law would take full effect.

A committee of the Virginia Senate has killed a proposal to allow some jurisdictions to vote on whether to allow popular elections of school-board members.

The 11-to-3 vote by the privileges and elections committee ensures that, for this year, Virginia will remain the only state in the nation that does not permit the election of school-board members. (See Education Week, Jan. 30, 1991.)

Critics of the proposal to allow voters in six locations to decide the issue said it was not practical to allow the election of board members if school boards did not also have the power to levy taxes. Giving boards such authority would require a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee has killed a bill that would have allowed the city of Virginia Beach to give private and parochial schools the option of using public-school buses.

The Education Committee of the Wyoming House has killed a bill to have the state superintendent of public instruction appointed by the governor, instead of elected by the voters.

The bill did not come up for a vote in the committee because of a lack of interest among members, said Representative James C. Hageman, chairman of the committee.

Still pending before the panel is a bill that would take policymaking authority away from the state school board, converting it into an advisory body. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, would turn oversight of school accreditation and teacher certification over to the state education department.

But another Senate-passed bill, which would allow the school superintendent, rather than the governor, to appoint members to the state board, will probably not be approved by the committee, Representative Hageman indicated.

Legislation increasing the minimum age at which South Dakota children are eligible for kindergarten has failed in a Senate committee.

The measure, which had already passed the House, was voted down 5-to-2 this month.

Currently, children must be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to enroll in kindergarten. The defeated bill would have phased in a new cutoff date over three years--to Aug. 1 in 1992, July 1 in 1993, and June 1 in 1994.

Vol. 10, Issue 23

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