State News Roundup

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The Milwaukee school-choice program should be struck down because the Wisconsin legislature's method of approving it bypassed the state constitution, a lawyer for critics of the program has told the state supreme court.

The controversial program, which allows children from low-income families in the city to enroll in private schools at state expense, was overturned on similar grounds last year by a lower court. State officials allowed the program to continue pending an appeal, however, and this fall 554 students enrolled under it. ('See Education Week, Sept. 4, 1991 .)

Robert H. Friebert, who represents teachers' unions and other groups opposed to the choice law, contended during oral arguments on the case this month that, by inserting the choice measure into the state's 1989 budget-adjustment bill, legislators violated a constitutional ban on including a "local bill" in a state budget measure.

Advocates of the program, however, told the supreme court that choice law greatly benefits children in Milwaukee and should not be struck down on a technicality.

The court is not expocted to issue a decision on the case until at least next month.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer of Maryland has agreed to delay the implementation of $450 million in spending cuts, $23.4 million of which were slated for the state education department, until legislators can produce alternatives.

But the decision, which followed vocal demonstrations and pressure from lawmakers, may bode poorly for state schools. The education budget fared relatively well in the Governor's initial cuts, which included 1,700 state-employee layoffs and the loss of general public assistance for more than 24,000 residents.

In response to Mr. Schaefer's budget plan, legislative leaders last week outlined an alternative package that would cut even more deeply into local aid, including for education.

Vol. 11, Issue 07, Page 2

Published in Print: October 16, 1991, as State News Roundup
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