News In Brief: Va. Law Hikes School Aid, Supports Goals 2000

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Virginia lawmakers challenged Gov. George F. Allen's decision not to apply for Goals 2000 funds by including a provision in the state budget last week that would force the state to apply for the federal dollars if two-thirds of its school districts filed petitions.

The legislators attached the measure to a $16.7 billion biennial state budget that they approved in a marathon session last week. Overall, public education emerged as the big winner, with $5.9 billion earmarked for K-12 education over two years, an increase of 11 percent over the current budget.

The budget reduces K-3 class sizes and increases teacher pay. But lawmakers did not give Gov. Allen the $23 million he wanted for a student-testing program, providing only $12 million to test up to four grades by 1997.

Education was a central theme in last November's legislative elections, and Republicans and Democrats have criticized each other in recent months for not proposing to spend enough on public schools. The state House is controlled by Democrats; the Senate is evenly divided and under joint control.

Finance Suit Reopened

Idaho's supreme court has revived a dormant school-finance lawsuit, overturning a lower court's dismissal.

The plaintiffs, a coalition of 32 school districts, argue that the state does not spend enough money to provide the "uniform and thorough" system of public schools required under its constitution.

A district court judge ruled in 1994 that the legislature had taken sufficient action to make the claim moot. (See Education Week, Dec. 14, 1994.)

But the supreme court ruled this month that the suit should proceed.

"Even were we to determine that this controversy is technically moot ... the issue of whether current levels of state funding meet the constitutionally mandated requirement of 'thoroughness' is a matter of great fundamental importance," the ruling said.

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