Thompson Vetoes School Construction Rules; Spares Test

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Veto pen in hand, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin inked out complicating requirements last week from a plan that will make up to $170 million, which had been earmarked for busing Milwaukee schoolchildren, available to help build neighborhood schools instead. The governor also let pass with scant change a weakened version of the high school graduation test he had strongly backed.

Both measures were part of an overdue budget of $41.5 billion for fiscal 2000, which began July 1.

Milwaukee school leaders applauded the governor's busing-money veto. One provision of the busing plan voided by the Republican governor would have required the creation of a special board largely controlled by the state to oversee Milwaukee school construction. The other would have mandated that half the construction money be allocated to minority firms.

The minority set-aside "was simply impractical," said Milwaukee school board President Bruce R. Thompson. "We probably couldn't have reached 50, or if we did, it would have sent the cost way up."

Milwaukee officials opposed the proposed state board as an affront to local control and the imposition of an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

The legislature's plan in effect allows any savings from the five-year, $170 million busing fund to pay the debt on bonds used to build new schools. With many inner-city schools overcrowded, new construction is needed if the 103,000-student Milwaukee system is to reduce the busing of children for racial purposes and allow more youngsters to attend their neighborhood schools.

"It needed some tinkering around the edges to make it work, and that's what the governor did," said Darrin Schmitz, a spokesman for the governor.

Test Plan Accepted

Gov. Thompson also said last week he would accept the legislature's graduation-test measure, even though it falls short of the high-stakes exam he sought.

The legislation allows parents to keep their children from taking the test and makes it just one of several criteria determining whether a senior graduates.

Mr. Thompson used his veto power to make only a minor change: He eliminated the possibility that "other criteria" in addition to the grade on the test, a student's academic performance, and teacher recommendations would figure in whether the student graduated.

Vol. 19, Issue 10, Page 21

Published in Print: November 3, 1999, as Thompson Vetoes School Construction Rules; Spares Test
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