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Monday Roundup: Pa. School Choice, New Oregon Ed. Adviser

Governors and state lawmakers strutted, or limped, into the summer after a busy and bruising round of legislative sessions, with some of the most controversial activity focused on school policy. What's on tap for the coming year?

As summer comes to a close, a roundup of recent state news provides a preview of some of the major questions facing lawmakers over the next year.

• In Pennsylvania, the state's former Secretary of Education, Eugene Hickock, tells lawmakers that they would be wise to go incrementally in trying in trying to promote and expand school choice. Pennsylvania legislators debated an ambitious voucher proposal this year, which stalled, though it seems likely to come up again.

"[Y]ou need to take steps to get there. And a smart step is to focus on children trapped in [underperforming] schools," Hickock told a legislative committee, according to the Patriot-News. Hickock, who also served as a top education adviser in President George W. Bush's administration, supported vouchers as a state official.

• Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has named a state legislator, Rep. Ben Cannon, to serve as his top education adviser. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has backed a series of broad changes in Oregon, including the creation of a new board that he says will better coordinate policy across schools and colleges. Cannon, a teacher and a Democrat, will resign from his post in the legislature to take the new assignment.

• Colorado voters could be asked to vote on a ballot measure that would raise taxes for schools. Backers of the effort are awaiting a decision by Colorado's secretary of state on whether requirements have been met to place the measure on the ballot in November. The Colorado Education Association is now backing the effort, the Denver Post reports.

• And in the pages of Ed Week, I write about the opening of school and the financial challenges facing school districts. Shortages of state revenue, cuts in state aid, and the drying up of federal stimulus dollars amount to a foul budgetary brew in many school systems.

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