News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Maryland Denies Private School Busing

Despite a plea from the parents of students in Roman Catholic schools, Gov. Parris N. Glendening of Maryland decided not to include transportation and other aid for private and religious school students in his proposed state budget.

The Democratic governor made his decision known in a letter he sent to some 6,500 parents who wrote him last fall asking for the funding. ("Catholic Parents' Effort in Md. Reflects Role of Political Bargaining," Nov. 27, 1996.)

"Unfortunately, the constraints on the state's budget will not permit us to undertake the new major aid programs you have requested," wrote the governor, who added he would try to include private schools in a statewide school-business collaboration to get more classrooms wired to the Internet.

Catholic school parents said they were at least happy the governor didn't balk at the concept of providing public funds for private school students, and their representatives vowed to keep up the pressure.

"With 6,500 letters going out, the parents aren't going to be ignored," said Mary Ellen Russell, the coordinator of the Maryland Federation of Catholic School Families.

Twenty-eight states either mandate or allow that public funds pay busing costs for private school students.

Texas Audit Faults Education Agency

The Texas Education Agency needs to do a better job of managing its finances and evaluating how it serves schools, according to a recent review by State Auditor Lawrence F. Alwin.

The report, which studied how the agency and its nearly 1,000 employees are managed, also faults how the TEA tracks inventory and prepares annual financial reports.

"The agency must ensure that its operating budget of $69.1 million for the fiscal year 1997 is adequately controlled," the review says.

In one of its most critical passages, the audit states that some regulatory breaches, such as inappropriate use of travel advances and incomplete personal-leave reporting, "raise concerns of an ethical nature."

Agency officials defended the TEA in a written response that was included in the review.

The agency said it "recognizes the control weaknesses identified in the management audit report and has taken steps to correct these exceptions.".

For example, a new performance-review system is being implemented for employees, and the TEA is improving its efforts to share information with other state agencies and local schools.

Illinois Officials Dispute $52,000 Tab

The National Association of State Coordinators of the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and Joseph A. Spagnolo, the Illinois state schools superintendent, are trying to decide who should pay a $52,000 tab left after a 1995 Chicago conference.

A former consultant of the Illinois education department arranged the conference and allegedly ordered too many T-shirts, tote bags, and catered meals, leading to the charges. The state education department has argued that the consultant was not authorized to spend state money.

A collection agency hired by the Hyatt Regency Chicago is trying to sort out who should pay, officials said.

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