News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Mass. Leaders Promote Two New Audit Plans

School audits have quickly become a popular accountability tactic in Massachusetts. Gov. William F. Weld recently created a board to audit schools, and John R. Silber, the state school board chairman, said he will name a team of his own.

Mr. Weld's education reform audit board, created by executive order, will start examining district budgets in an effort to make sure the state got its money's worth from the 1993 reform law. The law raised state school aid $1.3 billion above the level of five years ago.

"We're sending out a posse to track down errant school districts," Mr. Weld, a Republican, said. "A school system that fails to measure up will find itself standing without even a fig leaf" to defend itself from taxpayers.

The 10-member commission will include staff members from the state's revenue and education departments and also get help from the state auditor's office.

Meanwhile, Mr. Silber said he will use state education department money to pay a private firm to begin looking at spending practices in urban districts to complement the governor's initiative. He told a House spending panel that the audits would highlight "gross waste and inefficiency."

Observers generally praised the governor's plan and worried that Mr. Silber's efforts would create confusion and duplication.

'Patriotic' Okla. Bill Expands, Advances

The Oklahoma House has passed a bill that would require all state agency supervisors to lead employees in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

That provision was pitched as an expansion of the bill's requirement that students repeat the daily pledge to the flag. "If it is good enough for schoolchildren, it is good enough for state employees," said Democratic Rep. Dwayne Steidley.

The bill began as a measure aimed at requiring public schools to teach the history and etiquette surrounding the U.S. flag. Amendments to the measure added to its patriotic spirit. One amendment calls for teaching all Oklahoma students that burning and other desecration of the flag are "rude and un-American."

An amendment aimed at avoiding a court challenge would make students' recitation of the pledge optional. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that students cannot be compelled to recite the pledge.

The bill passed late last month. It now moves to the Senate.

Kan. Dropouts Would Hear What They Miss

The Kansas Senate has approved a bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to drop out of school, but require the state to inform them of how the decision would affect their futures.

The measure, which easily passed the Senate late last month, would allow older teenagers to drop out if they and their parents signed a disclaimer. The state requires students to attend school until they turn 18.

The disclaimer would stipulate the academic skills the student has yet to achieve and the difference in potential income between the average high school dropout and his peers with diplomas.

The paperwork would also list alternative education sites in the area.

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