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A state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by 44 of Florida's 67 school districts that challenged the adequacy of the state's schools.

Judge Ralph Smith of the circuit court in Tallahassee ruled Jan. 31 that the constitutional separation of judicial and legislative powers prevented him from evaluating the legislature's spending priorities.

Wayne Blanton, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said the coalition of school districts will appeal.

"We were hoping to get our facts and figures out before the court because they are very compelling," he said. "Now, we have to get past this issue of separation."

Both the coalition and the legislature have agreed to move the case as quickly as possible to the state supreme court. Prompted by dwindling funds and increasing numbers of mandates, the school districts filed the lawsuit last May.

Aid Hike in Peril

A projected revenue shortfall in Idaho is imperiling a school-aid increase that lawmakers passed last year to help fend off a school-finance suit.

The legislators may have to adjust the state's new school-aid-distribution formula or else districts will find themselves without money they had counted on to help pay heating bills and buy supplies.

The new finance program based districts' aid on an index measuring the average education and experience levels of local teachers.

But new data given to legislative analysts show that teachers' education and experience levels are higher than anticipated--meaning salaries could eat up most of the $590 million appropriation.

To stave off shortfalls in district budgets, the lawmakers were considering setting a cap on how much districts could receive under the salary apportionment. Another alternative on the table was to find more money, an unlikely option given the record 17.5 percent increase the legislature approved last year.

Weapons Bill Moves

The Pennsylvania House has passed legislation that would expel for one year students carrying weapons on school property.

The bill defines "weapon" broadly, including firearms, knives, nun-chucks, and a variety of cutting tools, according to a House aide. Local school officials would have the authority to modify the expulsion penalty.

If the Senate approves the measure, Pennsylvania would become the latest state to adopt a so-called "zero tolerance" policy toward school violence.

Congress last year approved a ban on federal Title I funding for districts that failed to adopt expulsion policies for gun-toting students.

Vol. 14, Issue 21

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