Governor, State Chief Gain More Power in Ga.

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Georgia Gov. Zell Miller will take control of a key state education program and state schools Superintendent Linda Schrenko will gain new powers under legislation passed this month.

Under the bill, the state will set up a new office of school preparedness--headed by an official appointed by Gov. Miller--to run a lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program. That program is now managed by Ms. Schrenko's education department and several other state agencies.

Ms. Schrenko, in turn, will gain the power to hire her top five officials and award outside contracts of up to $50,000.

Currently, the state school board must approve all department hires and contracts of more than $5,000.

The legislation that passed was a compromise version of a proposal by Gov. Miller, a Democrat, and Ms. Schrenko, a Republican, to shrink the state education department and give the schools chief more authority to hire and fire her staff. But Democratic leaders said the original proposal went too far. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1996.)

Finance Appeal Fails

The Arkansas Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of a 1994 ruling that gave the state two years to come up with an education-funding formula that could pass constitutional muster.

The dismissal is the latest court action stemming from a 1992 lawsuit filed by the Lake View school district, which argued that the formula violated the state constitution's guarantees of equal protection and a "suitable and efficient" system of education.

In November 1994, Pulaski County Chancellor Annabelle Clinton Imber ruled in favor of the district and gave the state two years to devise a new formula.

The state supreme court dismissed the state government's appeal this month because two years have not passed since that ruling.

The terms of the dismissal indicate that the new formula passed by the legislature last spring could face a challenge once the two-year period passes.

Textbook Bill Dies

A bill that would have created two additional seats for parents on the commission that selects school textbooks in Tennessee has been killed by the House education committee.

The bill, which was defeated on a tie vote March 13, was backed by religious activists and opposed by the Tennessee Education Association, the state's major teachers' union. The 10-member commission currently comprises seven educators and three parents, all appointed by the governor.

"I'm very disappointed," said Rep. Ron Ramsey, the Republican who sponsored the bill. "It showed the extreme to which the TEA will go to stop parents from having their say in textbook selection."

Construction-Bill Veto

South Dakota's governor has vetoed a school-construction bill that he said would have burdened state taxpayers with an additional $250 million in debt.

The measure would have allowed school boards to shift facility-repair costs from their general funds to capital-outlay accounts, and increased the total allowable debt from 3 percent in such accounts to 4 percent. It was intended to give districts access to more money for new school construction without having to issue bonds.

In his veto statement, Gov. William J. Janklow said that allowing districts to incur new debts would eventually cost taxpayers some $250 million and would result in tax increases.

The legislature voted 18-16 to override the veto earlier this month, but was unable to muster the required two-thirds vote.

Vol. 15, Issue 27

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