News in Brief

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The Pennsylvania legislature has adopted a fiscal 1994 budget that includes an additional $130 million for the state's low-wealth school districts.

Under the plan approved late last month, basic state aid to wealthier districts was frozen for the second consecutive year.

"It is a major step in the right direction ... to achieve true equity,'' said Janice Bissett, the executive director of the House education committee.

The aid shift was part of an ongoing effort by Rep. Ronald R. Cowell, the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. Dwight Evans, the chairman of the House appropriations committee, to develop a new aid formula that will close the state's wide per-pupil spending gap.

The measure also includes $566 million for special education and $76 million for approved private schools serving children with disabilities.

The funding for the approved schools represented a rejection of a proposal by Gov. Robert P. Casey, who had called in his budget for shifting the funds currently provided by the state to the private schools to local districts, which would have been able to use the extra special-education funds as they saw fit. (See Education Week, May 5, 1993.)

However, the Governor's proposal ran into strong opposition from many parents, students, administrators, and teachers, who persuaded lawmakers that many of the private schools would be forced to close without the direct aid.

Passage of the budget marked the first time the legislature has approved a budget in May since 1982. In 1991, a deadlock over taxes and education aid delayed passage of a budget for weeks past the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

This year's budget passed by a comfortable margin in the House. But the vote count in the Senate, where Democrats had only a one-vote majority, was so close that one senator was transported to Harrisburg from his hospital bed. The lawmaker died three days after casting his vote.

The California Senate will vote once more this week on a bill to ban the Channel One classroom news show in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Art Torres, D-Calif., failed on a 19-to-19 vote last month but will be reconsidered, an aide said. A similar effort failed two years ago.

Although California education officials have strongly opposed allowing the commercially sponsored show into the classroom, a number of schools are receiving the Whittle Communications program. (See Education Week, June 2, 1993.)

The birthday of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez would be a holiday for public schools and government agencies in California, under a bill approved by the Senate Rules Committee.

The bill would close the schools each year on March 31, or the nearest weekday, and require schools to have programs commemorating Mr. Chavez and the farm-labor movement.

Mr. Chavez, the longtime head of the United Farm Workers of America, died in April.

Vol. 12, Issue 37

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