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Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado last week introduced a school-funding and education-reform plan that could end his longstanding battle with the legislature by referring the issue to voters in November.

The plan would increase the state's sales tax from 3 cents to 4 cents, beginning in December, to fully fund the state's school-finance program and launch a variety of reforms.

The "Children First Act'' would establish site-based management, achievement standards, and merit pay for all school employees and launch new efforts aimed at reducing class sizes in the primary grades and extending school programs for students who need extra help.

Without action to fully fund the state's finance plan, schools will face a $165-million shortfall for the year beginning in July. The gap could grow to more than $400 million the following year without changes, officials warn.

The plan was referred to the legislature late last week, but officials said they would launch a petition drive shortly if lawmakers do not approve the proposal.

The Education committee of the Colorado Senate has killed a bill that would have allowed individual public schools to withdraw from their school districts and be supervised by a special statewide district.

The bill had passed the House in March. (See Education Week, April 8, 1992.)

The bill would have allowed a school to leave its district if two-thirds of parents and staff voted to do so. The state attorney general's office said the bill's exclusion of residents with no children in the school raised constitutional questions.

The Maryland legislature has broken a budgetary impasse by passing the largest tax increase in the state's history.

During a special session this month, lawmakers adopted a $12.5-billion budget that includes a $300-million general tax increase.

Under the plan, income-tax rates for wealthier residents will rise, the 5 percent sales tax will be collected on more items, and the cigarette tax will be doubled.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia has vetoed a bill that would have required a teenager to notify a parent before she could get an abortion, after lawmakers rejected his proposed amendments.

Under the bill, which the Governor had called too vague, girls under age 18 would have been required to notify a parent or to persuade a judge to allow her to bypass this requirement if she wanted an abortion.

Texas officials have announced a $231-million cut in state aid to schools.

Most of the unexpected shortfall was attributed to a mistake in the state's estimate of the amount districts would raise local taxes under a new school-finance law. Officials said $122 million in state matching funds will not be forthcoming.

Another $88 million was lost due to a law that anticipated savings in district administrative costs but was never implemented in local districts, while $12 million of the shortfall was due to a higher-than-anticipated enrollment in the public schools.

Vol. 11, Issue 32

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