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The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week moved a step closer to issuing new school-lunch regulations to replace those issued, then withdrawn, earlier this fall.

In his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, G. William Hoagland, administrator of usda's Food and Nutrition Service, said that the agency had provided President Reagan with several options for changing the school-lunch regulations to meet the program's reduced budget. (See Databank on page 10.)

The information sent to the President is not a final proposal, usda sources emphasized, but rather a preliminary step in the development of a new proposal.

One option would require schools to serve small portions of foods from the five basic food groups, instead of full-sized portions. Another suggests that schools serve full portions of foods from three of the groups and smaller portions of the other two, Mr. Hoagland said.

Mr. Hoagland also told the subcommittee that the department has identified 466 public schools in 48 states that have dropped out of the federal school-lunch program since September. Mr. Hoagland noted that this represents less than one-half of one percent of the 94,000 schools enrolled in the program.

But the schools that remain in the program are serving about 11 percent fewer meals since prices went up in September, according to usda data gathered for September.

Sixteen percent of the reductions were in full-price meals; 12.8 percent were in reduced-price meals; and 3.2 percent were in free meals, Mr. Hoagland said.


Rules governing the new federal education block grants--which the U.S. Department of Education had scheduled for publication in the Nov. 16 Federal Register--will be released at least a month late, according to the department's regulations director.

A. Neal Shedd said last week that the department has not yet decided whether to issue non-binding guidelines, in a question-and-answer format, or to publish regulations, which would have the force of law.

Mr. Shedd said both versions of the block-grants rules would be sent to Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell and to the Office of Management and Budget. The final decision about which version will be published rests with Secretary Bell, he said.


The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to consider the constitutionality of a New York state law that prohibits the distribution and promotion of materials that depict children engaging in sexual activity--regardless of whether the materials have been deemed "obscene" according to community standards.

The case, The People of the State of New York v. Paul Ira Ferber, involves an apparent conflict between two Constitutional rights--privacy and freedom of expression.

Mr. Ferber was convicted of "promoting a sexual performance by a child," but last May, his conviction was overturned by the state's highest court. The court ruled that the state could not prohibit the promotion of material that had not been declared obscene by local community standards. Hence, the court said, the law was in violation of Mr. Ferber's First-Amendment rights.

Proponents of the New York law, however, argue that the protection it affords "exploited" children is more important than the "purported First-Amendment rights of the respondent."

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Covenant House, a shelter for runaways in New York City, attorney Edmund J. Burns argues that "the distribution of child pornography not only seriously extends and deepens the injuries to children from the production of such material, but it causes, too, harms completely distinct from the original sexual exploitation."

Eighteen other states have similar statutes governing child pornography. New York's is the first to be found unconstitutional by a state court.

The case is scheduled for argument next spring.

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