News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Texas Senate Smiles on Schools

Public education would be the biggest beneficiary of a two-year, $83.3 billion budget plan that received the unanimous endorsement of the Texas Senate last week.

The bill would add $1.5 billion to the K-12 education budget in 1998-99. Of that increase, $1.07 billion would pay for 141,000 new students. Total school spending would rise by 7.7 percent, to $20.7 billion.

Funding for school facilities would get a $200 million boost, $11 million would be added for safe schools, and the state contribution to the teacher retirement system would increase by $180.2 million.

A conference committee was expected to take up this week the Senate bill and a version passed by the House.

"This budget keeps the scales balanced between the state's most critical services and the taxpayers' demands for leaner government," said Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat. "And it focuses on the idea that the state's job begins in the classroom."

New Mexico House Shelves Evolution Bill

A bill that would have required public schools in New Mexico to teach the theory of evolution failed in the final days of the legislative session, which ended March 22.

The bill had passed the Senate earlier in the session, but it was shelved by the House education committee. It would have required the state school board to adopt science standards, written by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council, that feature evolution.

The state board had adopted academic standards last year that did not specify what theory of human origin should be taught in science classes. Its action drew criticism from members of the science community, who argued that the omission would allow schools to teach creationism.

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