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Mississippi schools can no longer require students to pay fees for workbooks or any other material that is a "necessary and essential part" of their education, the state attorney general has ruled.

Attorney General Mike Moore stated in a letter to school districts that such fees violate the state constitution's guarantee of a free public education.

Some students have been denied entrance to a class or a final grade because they had not paid certain fees, according to state education officials.

The ruling does not apply to fees charged for extracurricular or optional activities.

Several lawmakers have announced that they will introduce legislation to reverse the ruling and allow further use of fees.

Nationally, a growing number of districts have turned to fees in order to close budget gaps or fund extracurricular programs. (See Education Week, Dec. 7, 1988.)

Student eligibility for bilingual-education services in New York State will be broadened under a new policy announced by Commissioner of Education Thomas Sobol.

The revised rules will allow students who score up to the 40th percentile on a standardized English reading test to receive bilingual aid. Previously, the upper limit for such assistance was the 23rd percentile.

The policy, adopted by the Board of Regents last month, will require all school districts to identify limited-English-proficient students and provide bilingual or English-as-a-second-language services.

Only 178 of the 449 districts that reported having l.e.p. students had state-approved programs in 1986, according to the state education department. More than 105,000 students speaking 85 languages were enrolled in e.s.l. or bilingual programs.

The new policy, which will take effect in the fall, will provide additional tutoring and guidance for students after they enter mainstream English programs. It also sets goals for recruiting more bilingual teachers, bolstering parental involvement, and establishing programs to help students maintain their native language and culture.

The current system too often pushes students with limited English skills out of bilingual programs "before they're ready," Mr. Sobol said.

Mr. Sobol estimated that the policy initially would add about $3 million to the $22 million the state now spends on bilingual education each year.

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