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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Weld Tapped for Post

Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld has revealed plans to join the Clinton administration as ambassador to Mexico. Mr. Weld, 52, a popular, moderate Republican who has governed the Bay State since 1991, will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci, 49. Mr. Cellucci, a Republican, has served in state government since 1977, with stints as a state representative and senator.

Mr. Cellucci, whom Gov. Weld has often referred to as his "co-governor," told reporters last week that he is committed to seeing through Mr. Weld's initiatives, including the Education Reform Act of 1993, a seven-year, $2 billion effort to raise standards and double the amount of money the state spends on education. More recently, Gov. Weld has roiled the state's educational waters by naming an outspoken former political rival, Boston University Chancellor John R. Silber, to head the state school board.

President Clinton still must formally nominate Gov. Weld for the post. The governor will remain in office until his appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a process that could take months, a spokeswoman for the governor said last week.

"It's been an honor to serve the people of Massachusetts as lieutenant governor, and it will be an honor to serve them as governor," Mr. Cellucci said after Mr. Weld's April 27 announcement.

BEST Issues Report

An Ohio education coalition has released a statewide policy agenda that focuses on programs in preschool through grade 3 and calls for access to high-quality preschool and Head Start for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

The report from the BEST coalition made waves when local newspapers erroneously reported that the coalition had proposed a $3.5 billion tax increase to rectify the state's school funding situation.

Coalition organizers say that information was incorrectly drawn from a draft financial analysis that was not in the report and was not a document from the group, whose full name is Building Excellent Schools for Today & the 21st Century.

The report calls for higher standards in assessment and accountability for students and schools, safe and orderly schools, and new finance options to pay for school infrastructure improvements. It also calls for benchmark levels for student achievement and teacher preparation. In addition, the report recommends mandatory, daily, all-day kindergarten in all school districts, and a teacher-pupil ratio of no more than 1-to-15 in all K-3 classrooms.

The coalition expects to present the report later this month to a governor's task force addressing the recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the state's school financing system is unconstitutional.

BEST is made up of more than 100 of the state's business, education, labor, philanthropic, and civic organizations.

Mich. Skirmish Brewing

The Democrat-controlled Michigan House has passed a bill that would boost K-12 education spending by $138 million above Republican Gov. John Engler's proposed 1997-98 budget--but the bill's prospects are dim in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Under the bill, per-pupil funding would climb by $158, or 3 percent, above 1996-97 levels, and $85 million would be put back into adult education after being stripped by the governor last year.

The bill was passed April 23 by a vote of 71-35 and went to the Republican-controlled Senate last week.

"I'm confident that somewhere we'll come up with a meeting of the minds," said Rep. Thomas Kelly, a Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee. He said increased state spending would cover the school spending.

But Republicans are blasting the Democrats' spending plan, saying it would cause a $138 million budget deficit.Mr. Engler's budget already calls for a 6.3 percent increase in K-12 spending, they added.

"Everyone here is pro-education," said Rep. Andrew Richner, a Republican who voted against the bill.

"But this is an unrealistic and partisan attempt to please one constituency at the expense of another," he added.

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