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The Tennessee House last week approved a half-cent increase in the state sales tax, thus clearing what had been seen as the biggest obstacle to funding for an education-reform bill that has been the focus of legislative debate over the past two years.

The House voted 54 to 45 in favor of the tax increase, which would expire in July 1993, and added an amendment that would establish a $200 licensing fee for many of the state's professionals. Together, the measures would raise $276 million a year, with $230 million earmarked for the school-reform package. (See Education Week, Feb. 26, 1992.)

Officials last week were waiting for the Senate, which earlier passed the sales-tax increase, to respond both to the House amendment and to the education plan, which has already passed the House.

In addition, the Senate must tackle a separate measure that was introduced as part of a deal to help secure the House victory for the tax increase. The plan would call a constitutional convention to consider tax-reform proposals. If approved, the measure would set a statewide August referendum on the matter.

The Kentucky legislature has passed a bill stripping the state's elected superintendent of public instruction of his remaining duties, leaving only the constitutional title and a $3,000 annual salary.

The move by lawmakers came in response to efforts by John Stephenson, an educator elected to the superintendency last fall, to obtain power and funding for his office. Under the state's 1990 school-reform law, most of the duties of the position were shifted to a new appointive post of commissioner of education. (See Education Week, Jan. 29, 1992.)

After Mr. Stephenson refused to immediately approve a $2.3-million computer lease for the Christian County schools--major lease approvals were one responsibility inadvertently left to the superintendent by the reform law--the bill passed the House easily.

Gov. Brereton Jones is expected to sign the measure.

Florida school districts would be penalized or rewarded financially according to their dropout rates, under legislation approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To give schools time to prepare, the legislation would not take effect until the 1994-95 school year.

Although the amount of reward or penalty has yet to be established, the funding formula would be based on two factors--the magnitude of change in a school's dropout rate and how it compares with the statewide dropout rate.

The Finance Committee of the Colorado Senate has approved a bill that would divert a portion of gambling-tax proceeds to preschool programs.

The bill would shift about half of the money collected by gambling taxes to an early-childhood-education program for at-risk pupils.

The state expects to reap about $6 million to $7 million in tax revenue during its first fiscal year of legalized gambling. Half of that amount could add an estimated 1,300 children to the preschool program.

A South Carolina home-schooling group would be authorized to accredit parents to teach their children at home, under a bill passed by the House.

Home schoolers currently are required to have a high-school diploma and be approved by their local school board. Under the measure adopted last month, parents could also be approved by the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools.

The group would require monthly reporting and would provide curriculum counseling to the home-based teachers.

The state supreme court in December struck down a requirement that parents pass a standardized test before being allowed to teach their children at home. (See Education Week, Jan. 8, 1992.)

An Arizona legal-advocacy group has decided temporarily to withhold a lawsuit aimed at forcing the state education department to provide special-education services for youthful offenders.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest had proposed to file a motion asking that Superintendent of Public Instruction C. Diane Bishop be held in contempt of court for failing to meet the terms of a settlement in a class action that requires the state to provide a treatment program for all handicapped children who need residential services.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently informed 40 treatment agencies that there was no money available to pay Maricopa County's bills for roughly 600 youths on probation who are enrolled in various types of treatment programs.

The court has estimated the shortfall at $4 million.

The Center for Law decided to withhold the lawsuit until after the legislature meets in special session to resolve the funding crisis.

Vol. 11, Issue 24

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