State News Roundup
A federal judge has upheld as constitutional a Minnesota law that allows public high-school students to enroll in college courses in public or private institutions, including those with religious affiliations.
U.S. District Judge David S. Doty ruled last month that the 1985 Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act does not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.
Under the program, high-school juniors and seniors may take college courses at state expense at public and private colleges and universities in Minnesota. The law was challenged by the Minnesota Federation of Teachers, which argued that it violated the Constitution and diverted state school aid to religious institutions.
Judge Doty ruled that classes offered to high-school students at seven religiously affiliated institutions were not "pervasively sectarian." The judge said it was not clear whether the program offered at an eighth institution, Bethel College of St. Paul, was constitutional since it appeared the school required its students to be Christian. The plaintiffs were allowed to continue to challenge Bethel's involvement in the program.
Eighty-four Mississippi school districts have filed suit in federal district court alleging that four dairy companies conspired to rig bids on contracts to supply them with milk.
The suit accuses Borden Inc., Flav-O-Rich Inc., Dairymen Inc., and Dairy Fresh Corporation of agreeing ahead of time who would submit the lowest bids to the school districts and several other public agencies, thereby artificially inflating the cost of the milk and cheating the districts out of millions of dollars since 1983.
Mississippi joins Ohio, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky in filing antitrust suits against milk suppliers over the past two years. Several other states are investigating milk suppliers.
A program to offer public employees in Rhode Island bonuses for taking early retirement is rapidly draining the state's public schools of teachers and administrators, according to state officials.
School employees with 23 years or more of service are taking advantage of a 10 percent pension bonus enacted by the state legislature this year. Since July 1, the state retirement board has been deluged with applications, officials said, and staff members have been interviewing 50 prospective retirees a day, including Saturdays.
"I did not anticipate this kind of exodus," said Frank R. Walker, personnel director for the state department of elementary and secondary education.
Before the state enhanced the measure, the Providence district had offered a bonus of $150 for each year of service. As a result, that district is losing 206 of its 1,300 certified employees, including the superintendent and two top aides. The dual bonuses "set off a chain reaction like we haven't seen before," said Paul Vorro, the district's personnel administrator.
Rhode Island will realize a short-term savings, Mr. Walker said. As for the future, "it's a battle of the actuaries right now."