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Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania has asked lawmakers to allow local districts to opt out of the state's controversial academic standards.

In a bill sent to the legislature this month as part of his education-reform package, Mr. Ridge, a Republican who took office this year, aims to make the state's 53 "learning outcomes" voluntary learning targets.

The standards were adopted by the state school board in 1993 after a mammoth struggle in which the achievement goals were criticized as vaguely worded and academically flabby.

The debate made Pennsylvania one of the first battlegrounds over the reforms known as "outcomes-based education." (See Education Week, 9/22/93.)

About one-third of the state's 501 districts are scheduled to make mastery of the outcomes a requirement for graduation beginning in the fall.

But Eugene Hickok, the state education secretary appointed by Governor Ridge, has given districts permission to delay their implementation of the requirements pending the legislature's response to the bill.

Raise the Levy: Voters in more than a third of Arkansas's 312 school districts must approve higher property taxes or watch more money come out of their paychecks.

The penalty system, which will affect 135 districts, was passed by the legislature this year in response to a court order that they correct school-funding inequities. (See Education Week, 4/12/95.)

The districts identified this month by the state fall short of levying a property-tax rate of 25 mills for maintenance and operations.

If they do not meet that mark in the fall, they will face a 10 percent income-tax surcharge, according to the state department of education.

The necessary tax increases range from a fraction of 1 mill in the Pangburn district to 8.91 mills in the England district.

Slashing Another Bureaucracy: The state education department in Georgia has been targeted for a shake-up.

The state school board voted unanimously this month to approve a reorganization plan proposed by Superintendent Linda C. Schrenko to fulfill a legislative mandate to trim the agency's $76.3 $76.3 million budget by $3 million.

The reduction plan calls for 45 positions--including four assistant superintendents--to be eliminated.

Other areas will be streamlined; six of the agency's divisions will be merged into one.

A quarter of the 320 remaining education department employees will be assigned to spend about three days a week working with school-improvement teams around the state.

Ms. Schrenko said the change is intended to improve the agency's delivery of services to school systems.

Vol. 14, Issue 36

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