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Six La Crosse, Wis., school-board members have been targeted for recall in part because they voted in favor of a plan to bus some wealthy and poor students away from their neighborhoods to promote socioeconomic balance in district schools.

Douglas Farmer, a spokesman for the citizens' group that opposes the busing plan, said his organization, Recall Alliance, plans to launch on March 13 a drive to remove the six board members who favored the plan but who are not facing re-election this fall.

Recall Alliance failed in a primary election last month to defeat two incumbent board members who had supported the busing plan and who are facing re-election. But Mr. Farmer said his group was encouraged by what he described as lower-than-expected support for the incumbents.

Recall Alliance members oppose several board decisions, including the busing plan adopted last fall, because, they say, the board actions would waste tax dollars and result in children being unnecessarily bused too far from their homes. (See Education Week, Oct. 30, 1991.)

The Los Angeles Board of Education has moved to eliminate a $130-million shortfall in this year's budget by withholding contributions to employee-benefit programs, tapping reserves, and freezing purchases of supplies.

The board late last month voted solidly in favor of these and other actions designed to eliminate the district's budget shortfall without cutting educational programs or jobs.

The board agreed to postpone $87.4 million in payments to employee insurance funds, to take $28.6 million out of a $31-million reserve fund for economic uncertainties, and to save $14 million by freezing purchases of supplies. In addition, some teachers and maintenance staff will be reassigned.

District officials cautioned that most of the funds used to cover the shortfall will have to be repaid, and that the district needs to stop using reserve funds to pay current bills, as it has for several years.

The budget deficit, originally thought to be $150 million, was discovered during a routine mid-year audit of the district's finances. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1992.)

Beginning with the class of 1993, the New York City public-school system will guarantee that all of its graduates meet basic-skills requirements, Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez said last week.

If employers find that graduates of schools in the nation's largest school district do not possess the requisite skills, the schools will take their former students back for free retraining, Mr. Fernandez promised.

The warranty expires one year after a student's graduation, according to James Vlasto, a spokesman for the district.

School adminstrators have been discussing the idea since late last fall. The program will take effect at the beginning of the 1992-93 school year.

Among the skills covered under the pledge are the ability to read, write, and perform basic mathematical calculations.

New York's warranty is modeled after a similar program in Prince George's County, Md., Mr. Vlasto said. The Prince George's program, which has certified 9,000 graduates over the past three years, has only had two "redemptions'' of its warranty, both of which were for the student's appearance or behavior, rather than for academic deficiency.

Other cities with warranty programs include Los Angeles, Denver, and Topeka, Kan. (See Education Week, Jan. 15, 1992.) The Detroit public schools are considering whether to adopt a similar warranty program beginning next year.

Vol. 11, Issue 24

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