News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Wisconsin Caucus Kills Test Amendment

The Republican caucus in the Wisconsin Assembly has voted to kill an amendment mandating the use of a high-stakes high school graduation test, a setback for Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson who had trumpeted such a plan.

In rejecting the test on June 21, the caucus followed the lead of the legislature's joint finance committee, whose members previously killed a law mandating the test.The amendment will not go before the full Assembly or the Senate, rendering the test effectively dead.

A compromise plan, which the caucus dismissed last month, would have required that every student in the state pass the test, said Chad Taylor, the chief legal counsel and senior policy adviser for Assembly Speaker Scott R. Jensen. It would have offered those who failed a reprieve, however, by setting up a review panel with the power to examine their academic careers and award them diplomas.

The compromise plan also would have allocated $7.1 million for the design and implementation of the graduation test, far less than the $10.1 million proposed by Mr. Thompson.

--Julie Blair

Lawsuit Filed After Bush Signs Fla. Voucher Bill

One day after Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law, the education plan that will provide tuition vouchers for Florida students in failing public schools came under legal fire from a coalition of plaintiffs led by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a lawsuit they filed June 22 in the Leon County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs--who include parents of students in voucher-eligible elementary schools, school board members from various counties, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People--argued that the voucher program violates a state constitutional ban on direct and indirect aid to religion, as well as federal constitutional principles. They also contended that the state has a constitutional responsibility to ensure high-quality public schools, not to support a separate system of private and parochial schools.

The defendants, including Mr. Bush and the state education department, argue that the program does not violate constitutional requirements on church-state separation because the vouchers are given to parents and not to religious schools directly.

Both sides have indicated that they will pursue the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. The Florida voucher program is the first such statewide plan.

--Jessica L. Sandham

Vol. 18, Issue 42, Page 18

Published in Print: July 14, 1999, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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