News in Brief

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Wisconsin legislators have agreed on a plan to increase state funding for education to provide property-tax relief.

The Assembly and Senate last month reconciled their proposals in a conference committee and overwhelmingly voted to approve the final version of the bill. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)

The measure calls for a commission consisting of the governor, state superintendent, and legislative leaders to devise means of generating an additional $1 billion in state revenue to increase the state's share of public school funding from about 40 percent to roughly 65 percent.

The amount of school funding derived from property taxes would drop from $3 billion to $2 billion under the plan, shaving about $450 from the typical homeowner's property-tax bill for 1996.

A proposed constitutional amendment designed to make school funding more equitable passed the House but died in a Senate committee.

Lawsuit Limits: The Idaho legislature has passed a measure that would severely limit the ability of school districts and taxpayers to sue the state over school-finance inequities.

Under the legislation, plaintiffs--who could only be the parents of students in or about to enter the public schools--would have to bring charges of educational inadequacy against their local district first.

Courts could order districts to raise taxes or shift funding if they found that a district was not providing "required'' services, while providing other, nonmandated services; that it was "using more resources than necessary'' to provide other required services; or that it was not levying the maximum allowable local property taxes.

If a court found that required services were not being provided, but a district could show that this was due to a lack of resources rather than to one of the specified factors, the judge would then have to allow the plaintiffs to add the state as a defendant in the suit.

The law would not apply to a pending suit filed by about half the districts in the state. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)

Tarheel Crime Package: The North Carolina legislature has closed a seven-week special session on crime, passing a $118 million package that includes tougher punishment and expanded crime-prevention programs for juveniles.

The package, most of which was proposed in a 36-point plan by Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., gives judges the discretion to try as adults 13-year-olds accused of violent crimes. It also funds a $5 million after-school program for grades K-9 and expands school-counseling and mentor programs.

Vol. 13, Issue 28

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