News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Texas Committee Nears Vote on Voucher Plan

The education committee of the Texas Senate is expected to pass a private-school-voucher bill as early as this week.

The bill, sponsored by the committee's chairman, Republican Teel Bivins, would give students in low-performing schools vouchers to pay for tuition in private and parochial schools. Republicans hold six seats on the 11-member committee.

''My goal in filing this legislation is to create a pilot project where we can compare apples to apples in testing these arguments" about vouchers, Mr. Bivins said last week.

The vouchers, which would have different values based on the school districts, would be available to students in schools where more than half the students do not perform satisfactorily on statewide proficiency tests.

Before receiving vouchers, students would first have to be turned down for a transfer to a new public school under the state's local-school-choice option.

Teachers' unions and other anti-voucher groups oppose the bill.

"[Sen. Bivins] calls it a pilot, and I'm looking at our projection that it could impact 383 campuses and cost more than $1 billion," said Richard Kouri, the president of the Texas State Teachers Association.

Panel Reduces Milk Prices in Phila. Schools

Philadelphia-area schools will get an 18 percent cut in milk prices following a decision this month by the state's controversial Milk Marketing Board, which sets minimum milk prices paid by Pennsylvania consumers.

Philadelphia school officials, who are frequent critics of the board, estimate that their system will save $100,000 a year because of the new prices. But the savings would be $800,000 each year if Pennsylvania milk prices were deregulated, they said.

Because the milk board divides the state into regions, only the southeast area of the state will benefit from the new prices. It will be up to schools in other regions to petition for similar price adjustments.

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