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The Utah legislature has approved a bill to equalize school-construction funding that will take money from wealthier school districts to help poorer districts deal with enrollment growth.

The bill would phase in over five years a plan to equalize the first five mills of all districts' property-tax revenues. It would protect districts with heavy indebtedness until their debt is reduced, and include a state contribution to the foundation of the program.

The bill does not address the equity of school operating budgets, which were roughly equalized in the 1970's.

In the first year, an estimated $1 million will be transferred from wealthier districts to poorer ones. By the year 2000, the amount will near $9 million.

The program will hit wealthier districts such as Salt Lake City and Park City.

The Kansas House has approved a $453-million school-finance reform bill.

Under the measure, which was passed by a vote of 82 to 43, public schools would rely far less heavily on local property taxes and far more on revenues generated by statewide income and sales taxes. Officials called the tax-reform plan the most dramatic in the state's history.

The bill would set a uniform statewide property tax of 29 mills and establish a base spending level of $3,625 per student.

Currently, local tax rates, which are set by individual school districts, range from 9.12 mills to 97.69 mills. Similarly, per-pupil spending ranges from $2,610 to 10,544.

Under the plan, which now goes to the Senate, districts that are willing to raise their property taxes could exceed the spending base by a fixed percentage.

Despite his earlier criticisms of the bill, Gov. George S. Mickelson of South Dakota has signed legislation requiring all elementary and secondary schools to promote sexual abstinence.

The measure adds sexual abstinence to a list of several topics already required for "moral instruction'' by schools, including truthfulness, temperance, respect for the contributions of members of minority and ethnic groups, and respect for the elderly.

Earlier this year, the Republican Governor sharply criticized the bill, saying it was "totally wrong'' for schools to take on a subject that he said should be taught at home. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1992.)

The Governor still believes that the "primary'' responsibility for such education lies with parents, said Janelle Toman, Mr. Mickelson's press secretary. However, "he understands the need for someone to perhaps fill in the gaps'' if that instruction is not being provided, Ms. Toman said.

A Kentucky House committee has approved a plan aimed at helping fund the state's technology reforms, which have fallen victim to budget cuts.

Under the bill, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem of the House Pete Worthington, the state would match local funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis in an effort to leverage more funding for computer purchases. Mr. Worthington estimates that the plan would cost $33 million annually for six years.

Backers hope the bill will enable the technology program, which was authorized by the state's 1990 school-reform law, to continue despite state cutbacks.

The Nebraska legislature has approved a proposed constitutional amendment allowing property to be taxed at different rates.

The measure, which will appear on the state's May 12 primary ballot, would effectively nullify a current constitutional provision that all property be taxed in a uniform manner. Several rulings by the state supreme court in recent years have found that current exemptions for certain industries are unconstitutional. (See Education Week, May 29, 1991.)

A state panel in Nebraska has approved a record number of school-district mergers.

The State Committee on Reorganizing School Districts this month approved 18 mergers, reducing the number of districts in the state to 759. The number of districts has fallen by more than 25 percent since 1980, when there were 1,064.

Vol. 11, Issue 27

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