News in Brief
Gov. James J. Florio of New Jersey last week signed legislation that diverts $350 million from school aid to property-tax relief, thus significantly altering a school-finance-reform law he had once steadfastly refused to change.
State officials expressed hope that the amendments to the embattled Quality Education Act--a $1.1-billion tax-and-finance package enacted last summer--will quell tax protests that have shaken the state.
But state educators, who vehemently denounced the revisions, vowed the fight will continue.
Betty Kraemer, president of the New Jersey Education Association/nea, said educators would continue to fight for a waiver of spending caps the law places on districts. She said they would also fight to make the state permanently take over the cost of teacher pensions. Under the new law, the state would have that responsibility for two years.
Marilyn Morheuser, the lawyer whose suit against the state prompted the 1990 finance plan, said the new law was unconstitutional. Her Education Law Center is considering going back to court to challenge it.
"I am absolutely not pleased," she said.
Gov. George Sinner of North Dakota is expected to sign a measure approved by the legislature that would provide for binding arbitration in teacher-contract disputes.
Under the measure, which will be in effect through 1995, a three-member, locally chosen panel will have the power to rule on negotiation impasses that deal with salaries or monetary fringe benefits. The panel will have to choose either the teachers' or the district's final offer, and both sides must abide by the panel's decision.
North Dakotans for Better Government, a antitax group, has said it will launch a petition drive to put the measure on the ballot next year. The group, which successfully led a petition drive that resulted in the defeat of several tax measures in a 1989 election, said the arbitration bill will lead to higher property taxes.
The education committee of the West Virginia Senate has killed a House-passed bill that would have decreased state aid to 24 counties but increased it to 31.
Under the failed funding plan, some counties would have lost more than $1 million.
The measure would have affected some $30 million in the state's so-called "step seven" funding, which covers such items as textbooks, supplies, and other instruc8tion-related materials.
In other action, the legislature has cleared and Gov. Gaston Caperton has signed a bill allowing educational employees to serve on a school board in their home counties if employed by schools in another county.
Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana last week switched to the Republican Party.
Mr. Roemer, who was elected Governor as a Democrat in 1987 after serving four terms in the U.S. House, said that over the last decade he often felt more ideologically aligned with the gop He has frequently been at odds with the Democrat-controlled legislature, and during his gubernatorial campaign he pledged to take on the Democratic establishment that has long commanded state politics.
Mr. Roemer is facing re-election later this year, and observers have speculated that the Governor's switch of parties also was calculated to maximize his chances of surviving the state's nonpartisan primary and getting into a two-candidate runoff in November.
Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, a Democrat, has already announced his candidacy, and State Representative David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who received 44 percent of the vote in his challenge last fall to U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, is expected to run, albeit without party support.