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California school officials were correct to withhold special-education funds from a school district that refused to comply with special-education law, the U.S. Education Department has ruled in a case that may be the first of its kind in the nation.

The ruling comes in a case involving a learning-disabled student who had been expelled from school in the Hacienda-La Puente school district for brandishing a knife in front of a classmate.

After the district refused to obey a state hearing officer's order to readmit the student, the state withheld the entire cost of educating the student elsewhere. The district then appealed to Robert R. Davila, the U.S. Education Department's assistant secretary in charge of special-education and rehabilitative services.

In his ruling last month, Mr. Davila said state education officials acted correctly because Hacienda-La Puente educators had violated the ''stay put" provision of federal special-education law, which bars educators from changing a disabled student's placement without the approval of the parents or a special-education hearing officer.

A state education department lawyer said the case may be the first in which a state has docked a "recalcitrant" district for the entire cost of educating a student elsewhere--rather than just the student's fed6eral per-pupil allotment.

The Missouri Board of Education last month approved a proposal to increase the length of the school year in the state to 200 days by the year 2000.

The proposal, which must be approved by the legislature, would take the state from among those with the shortest school year to among those with the longest.

The plan, which would add two days to the school calendar in the 1990-91 academic year and then lengthen it by three more days in each succeeding year through 1999, would cost the state $22 million in the first year and $33 million in each of the following years, according to estimates by the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

School officials said more academic days are needed to give teachers sufficient time to cover course material.

According to a survey conducted by the Education Commission of the States, 14 states require 175 school days a year, and 27 states require 180 days.

With a minimum 174-day school year, Missouri currently has the lowest standard in the nation, except for North Dakota, which requires only 173 school days.

The Missouri Board of Education has also approved an alternative teacher-certification program.

The process, approved Oct. 26, is primarily designed to attract "career-changers" to teaching at the secondary level, according to state school officials. However, candidates in art, music, and foreign languages could also be certified to teach at the primary level.

To earn a provisional teaching certificate, prospective candidates with a bachelor's degree and at least five years' work experience related to their degree will be required to take several college-level education courses, pass a test, and demonstrate "effective performance" in the classroom. Achieving full teaching credentials is expected to take two years.


Voters in Wisconsin favor allowing parents to choose public schools within their district, but oppose choice plans that extend beyond district lines or include private schools, according to a new poll by the state's largest teachers' union.

Sixty-nine percent of the 600 "likely voters" surveyed said parents should be free to choose among their home district's schools, while 28 percent opposed such an option, according to the poll taken last month by the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

The poll found that voters oppose--by 53 percent to 43 percent--an interdistrict choice plan similar to that in neighboring Minnesota, which allows students to attend, at state expense, a district other than the one in which they live.

Allowing parents to enroll their children in any public or private school at state expense was opposed by 68 percent of respondents; only 28 percent favored it.

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin has tried unsuccessfully for the past two years to persuade state legislators to approve various choice proposals.

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