News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Wisconsin Voters Elect Principal
To Be State's New Schools Chief

Voters in Wisconsin overwhelmingly elected a Madison high school principal for the job of state schools chiefs over a Hortonville high school teacher last week.

The winner, Elizabeth Burmaster, 46, had the support of influential education groups, including the state teachers' unions. She defeated Linda Cross, 53, garnering some 60 percent of the vote, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Official state results from the April 3 election will not be available until May.

The new superintendent of public instruction will take office July 2, replacing John T. Benson, who has served in the nonpartisan position since 1993. Mr. Benson plans to retire.

Ms. Burmaster will be responsible for running the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the agency that oversees public schools, allocates state and federal aid, and licenses teachers and administrators.

Throughout her campaign, Ms. Burmaster pledged to fight spending caps placed on schools by the legislature, reduce class sizes, and increase parental involvement.

—Julie Blair

Illinois' Private School Tax Credit Upheld

Some parents of children in Illinois' private schools gained a victory last week when a state appellate court upheld a law allowing them to save up to $500 a year in state income taxes.

The 3-0 ruling by the appeals court reaffirmed a law passed by the Illinois legislature last year. Beginning this past January, parents who spend at least $250 on education costs can receive a 25 percent income-tax credit.

The plaintiffs, a teacher and a parent, intend to appeal the ruling to the state supreme court, said Gail L. Purkey, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Lawyers paid for by the union are representing the plaintiffs.

Ms. Purkey said the plaintiffs contend that the law violates the state constitution's ban on the use of public money for religious-based groups, because it provides tax credits for tuition at religious schools, among other expenses.

Jerald F. Post, the lawyer for the defendants, said the state law follows the U.S. constitution, a conclusion echoed in last week's decision.

—Mark Stricherz

Vol. 20, Issue 30, Page 27

Published in Print: April 11, 2001, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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