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Gov. Arne H. Carlson of Minnesota last week signed a $5.2 billion education bill that seeks to reduce spending disparities among school districts.

The measure will end the use of local tax referendums as a means of increasing funds for schools by 1997, according to the state education department. In the meantime, many of the 280 communities that have passed local tax levies to increase funding for their schools will see a reduction of about $100 in the amount they receive from the state for each student served.

The state, which is facing a court challenge to disparities in funding among districts, plans to have a more equitable funding formula in place by 1998.

The measure also provides continuing support for the state's efforts to move to an outcomes-based education system by eliminating about 80 percent of state education mandates by 1996, when the new system would be in place.

In addition, the bill includes two provisions aimed at reducing the ratio of instructors to students in classrooms to 17 to 1. It provides added funds to districts for reducing class sizes and permits the hiring of beginning teachers to serve one-year "residencies'' at salaries below those of regular teachers.

The bill had been tied up in a conference committee while lawmakers haggled over its financial provisions. As a compromise, legislators dropped a provision of the bill that would have increased income taxes on upper-income taxpayers.

Governor Carlson had threatened to veto any bill containing tax increases. (See Education Week, May 12, 1993.)

The Texas House has passed a bill that could put off the closing of two state schools for the mentally retarded.

The Fort Worth and Travis state schools were scheduled to be closed under a settlement in a 19-year-old lawsuit over the state's system of care for mentally retarded adults and children.

In approving a bill on reorganization of the state's health agencies, House lawmakers added an amendment that would first require the legislature to review the state's decision to close the schools.

The amended bill is now pending in the Senate.

"Vote for these 3,000 children and men and women that are living in bed with tubes in their noses, are not able to talk, and are going to be thrown out on the streets,'' Rep. Doyle Willis, a Fort Worth Democrat who sponsored the amendment, told his House colleagues.

Currently, state officials are moving residents of the schools to other institutions or to group homes or community-based programs elsewhere in the state.

A legislature-appointed panel recommended closing the two schools last year. (See Education Week, March 25, 1992.)

Vol. 12, Issue 35

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