News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Vermont Court Upholds Act 60 Provision
The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld one of the most controversial aspects of the state's school finance law, the "sharing pool."
Under Act 60, the 1997 law that abolished local property taxes and created a new statewide tax to support education, towns that increase their tax revenues must also send those funds back to the state, to be redistributed from the sharing pool on the basis of wealth. ("In Vermont's Funding Shakeup, a Bitter Pill for the 'Gold Towns,'" Oct. 28, 1998).
Stowe Citizens for Responsible Government, a local advocacy group in a well-to-do resort town, argued in a lawsuit that the pool was unfair to wealthy towns, which have seen higher taxes as a result of the school finance overhaul.
But the five-member supreme court ruled March 4 that the legislature did not overstep its authority in creating the sharing pool. The justices refused to consider overturning other aspects of the law because it is still being put into place.
At least four more cases related to Act 60 are pending against the state, according to the state attorney general's office.
--Joetta L. Sack
Driscoll Named Massachusetts Education Chief
After weeks of rancor, the Massachusetts board of education named David P. Driscoll the state's education commissioner last week. He has held the position on an interim basis since last July.
Eight of the board's nine members voted for Mr. Driscoll, 55, at a special March 10 meeting. He is a former public school mathematics teacher and longtime school administrator.
The nine-member panel had been divided for several weeks over whom to hire for the $140,000-a-year schools chief's post. Four board members, including then-Chairman John R. Silber, backed James A. Peyser, a former school board member who heads a conservative think tank in Boston. Five members stood firmly behind Mr. Driscoll, who also had the support of the state teachers' unions. At least six votes were needed to make the appointment.
Mr. Silber resigned over the stalemate March 2, and asked GOP Gov. Paul Cellucci to name Mr. Peyser as his replacement. Mr. Peyser, 42, was chosen and sworn into the chairman's post March 5. ("Silber Resigns as Mass. Board Head; Ends Standoff Over New State Chief," March 10, 1999.)
--Kerry A. White
Vol. 18, Issue 27, Page 28