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Wisconsin lawmakers have moved to curb rising local property taxes by approving a state budget plan that imposes five years of cost controls on public school spending.

The plan, which was vigorously opposed by the state's largest teachers' union, would prohibit school districts from increasing their average spending by more than $190 per pupil this year. Salaries for teachers and other district employees would be held to an average 2.1 percent increase.

Daniel Clancy, a fiscal analyst for the legislature, said the changes and increases in enrollments will allow districts to spend an average of 6 percent more this year. Average school-spending increases in recent years have ranged around 9 percent.

Although Gov. Tommy G. Thompson had wanted to freeze local property taxes, an aide said the Governor is expected to sign the new budget plan. (See Education Week, June 23, 1993.)

The plan would also permit 10 districts to establish up to two charter schools each that would be exempt from many state education rules.

The Rhode Island Senate has overridden Gov. Bruce Sundlun's veto of a bill requiring utility companies to bury high-voltage power lines that run near schools and homes.

The measure was designed to protect residents, and especially children, from possibly harmful exposure to power lines, which some medical experts have linked to cancer.

The Governor vetoed the legislation last month, arguing that evidence connecting electromagnetic fields to cancer is "weak, inconsistent, and inconclusive.''

North Carolina parents could be imprisoned for up to two years if their child is found with a weapon on school grounds, under a bill passed by the legislature last week.

Under the measure, parents or anyone living with a minor could be charged with a misdemeanor if a youngster on school grounds possesses a firearm or uses it to commit a crime or cause personal injury.

"Child-opportunity zones'' would be created to provide social services at or near Rhode Island public schools, under a bill approved by the legislature.

Noting that schools are in a unique position to serve as a hub for coordinating and delivering social and health services to children and their families, the bill directs state officials to submit a plan for the zones by June 1995.

In its second flip-flop on the issue, the education committee of the California Assembly has approved a bill to prohibit mandatory television commercials in public school classrooms.

The panel voted 9 to 5 last month for the bill, which is targeted at Whittle Communications's ad-supported Channel One high school news show.

The committee originally approved the bill in June, but opponents forced a second vote early last month that reversed the initial vote. The subsequent vote for the bill, which has already passed the Senate, sends it to the Assembly floor.

The Texas Supreme Court has refused to order a hearing on the state's new school-finance law before it goes into effect with the coming school year.

State District Judge F. Scott McCown had refused to schedule a June hearing requested by poor school districts challenging the law and will now decide when he will hear arguments on the matter.

Poor districts said they sought to rush the process because the finance law passed this year is forcing painful budget cuts or tax increases on many school systems.

The supreme court's ruling did not address the substance of the new law, which forces the state's richest districts to choose a way to shed some of their local property wealth. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

Vol. 12, Issue 40

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