News in Brief: Kindergarten Measures Die in N.H. Legislature

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The New Hampshire Senate has voted to postpone taking action on several bills designed to help bring kindergarten to every district in the Granite State, effectively killing the initiative for this session.

Sen. George Lovejoy, the Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, said lawmakers wanted more time to study the issue. "We want to be sure we do what is right for the children and the state," he said.

Districts are not required to offer kindergarten in New Hampshire; currently 67 percent opt to do so. Gov. Stephen Merrill's plan would have offered districts monetary incentives to start kindergarten--$2,400 per pupil to defray start-up costs, and $150 per pupil each year afterward.

Mr. Merrill, a Republican, blamed the New Hampshire Education Association for the delay. He argued that the union's proposal to require kindergarten in all towns would cost $40 million.

But a spokesman for the union said the Governor was hunting for a scapegoat to deflect criticism about his decision to reduce his original kindergarten plan from a $17 million package to $5 million in "one-shot assistance."

"He has just proved the first rule of New Hampshire politics, which is never, never underestimate the state's inherent cheapness," said Dennis E. Murphy, the union's director of public affairs.

Conn. Stays in Program: The Connecticut legislature's joint education committee has voted unanimously to continue participating in a federal program that provides education, social, and health services to disabled infants and toddlers.

Gov. John G. Rowland had proposed pulling out of the early-intervention program, arguing that it is an unfunded mandate. He said the state could not afford to guarantee services to all eligible children until they reach age 3, as required under the federal program. (See Education Week, 3/15/95.)

In rejecting the G.O.P. Governor's plan, the education committee also called on the legislature's program review and investigations committee to study more cost-effective ways of providing services to disabled children.

New Tax Lawsuit: A 1993 Missouri law that raised taxes to help pay for public education is the target of a new lawsuit that seeks to prevent the state revenue director from collecting $310 million in corporate and personal income taxes as required by the law.

The suit was filed earlier this month in a Jefferson City circuit court by a half-dozen plaintiffs, including three lawmakers.

In part, the suit argues that the bill is unconstitutional because it deals with multiple issues in one measure, including education and taxes. It also charges that the tax hike should have been approved by the voters in a referendum.

A lower court already has ruled that language in the bill made it unnecessary to put the measure to a referendum. That decision, rendered last September in a separate lawsuit, was not appealed to the state supreme court.

Network Funding: Iowa legislators could consider a last-minute, $84 million spending package that would extend the state's fiber-optic network to more schools.

With just two weeks remaining in this year's session, Senate leaders announced last week that they will introduce a plan to finance the initiative over four years with higher-than-expected gambling revenues.

The Iowa Communications Network reaches all 99 Iowa counties and every community college, but only about 50 of the state's 390 school districts.

"The whole purpose of the network was to get infrastructure and technology to all schools," said Klark Jessen, a spokesman for the state education department. "Once again, you're getting a haves-and-have-nots scenario."

Observers thought the program was in serious jeopardy earlier this month, when the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected two nominees proposed by Republican Gov. Terry E. Branstad for positions overseeing the network.

In another last-minute move, the state Senate voted 42-8 last week to create a $15 million school-technology fund.

Bilingual Limit Rejected: The Massachusetts House has rejected a proposal by Gov. William F. Weld to reform the state's bilingual-education programs.

The Republican Governor has proposed limiting the time students can spend in bilingual education to three years, and the plan would push many students into English-language classes within a year. Mr. Weld has said that many bilingual-education students languish in special classes for years without learning English.

During a budget debate on April 11, the House rejected the measure on a 124-to-30 vote.

Vol. 14, Issue 31

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