News in Brief: School-Finance Suit Is Dismissed in N.M.
A New Mexico judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by 10 medium-size school districts challenging the state's education-funding formula.
They argued that the formula unfairly favors large and small districts, and thus violates the state constitution's requirement of a "uniform education system." (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1995.)
But Eddy County Judge Richard Parsons ruled Feb. 1 that the districts' concerns do not rise to a constitutional issue and should be resolved by state lawmakers rather than by the courts. He also said that the suit was improperly filed, because state law does not allow a government entity like a school district to press such a claim.
"We were very pleased the judge agreed with us," said Kay Roybal, the spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. "If any fixing needs to be done, it should be done by the legislature."
State Superintendent Alan Morgan urged the districts not to appeal the case and asked them to instead help a task force that is studying how New Mexico divvies up a $1.2 billion school budget among its 89 districts. The task force is expected to make recommendations by December.
The Pennsylvania House has approved a bill that would bar the state's civil-rights-enforcement agency from ordering districts to use busing to integrate schools.
The bill, which was passed 166-34 this month, would prohibit the human-relations commission from ordering school districts to assign students to schools other than the ones closest to their homes. The proposed law would ensure that no student was assigned to a school because of race, sex, religion, national origin, or ancestry, according to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Harry Readshaw.
"The parents who I've talked to want their kids in the closest school," Mr. Readshaw said in a statement.
But critics, such as the Legislative Black Caucus, said the measure, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, could prevent students in poor neighborhoods from reaping the benefits of more affluent schools.
Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson's plan to give state-funded tuition vouchers to low- and middle-income families was handed its first defeat last week, as the Senate education committee rejected the plan on a voice vote.
The voucher plan, which Gov. Carlson touted in his State of the State Address last month, called for a pilot project limited to Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Center, a Twin Cities suburb.
He proposed vouchers ranging from $500 to $3,000, depending on family income, that families could use to send their children to secular or religious private schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1996.)
It is considered unlikely that the plan will see any more activity during this session.
Vol. 15, Issue 21