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Total education spending during the 1990-91 school year will rise by 6.9 percent, to a record $359 billion, the U.S. Education Department predicts in its annual back-to-school forecast.

Precollegiate education, public and private, will get the largest percentage increase, with outlays from local, state, federal, and private sources estimated to be $231 billion, a 7.2 percent jump from 1989-90. When adjusted for inflation, that is a 34 percent increase since 1980-81, the department says.

Spending at the nation's public and private colleges and universities is expected to total an estimated $152.5 billion, or 6.5 percent over last year. After adjustment for inflation, that represents a 41 percent increase since 1980-81, the department says.

The report also predicts that:

The average per-pupil expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools will reach a record $5,638, a $354 increase over last year.

The average salary of public K-12 teachers will reach $33,300, a 6 percent increase over last year.

Total elementary and secondary enrollment will climb by 200,000 students, to 46.2 million.


Enrollment at independent private schools increased slightly last year, and was up about 2 percent throughout the 1980's, according to a new study by the National Association of Independent Schools.

Enrollment grew 0.7 percent from the 1988-89 school year to 1989-90 at a core sample of longstanding NAIS member schools, the study says.

Despite a slight decrease in the number of school-age children in the United States in the 1980's, independent-school enrollment increased from 305,144 in 1981-82 to 311,948 in 1989-90--a 2.2 percent change.

John C. Esty Jr., president of the NAIS, noted that enrollment in preschool to 2nd grade at member schools increased by about 28 percent.

"A new generation of parents has demonstrated its confidence in independent schools," he said.


Although attempts to censor what children read and learn in school were on the rise last year, the censors seemed to win fewer cases, according to a report issued last week by People for the American Way.

The constitutional-liberties watchdog group documented 244 efforts over the last school year by parents or school officials in 39 states to ban books or lessons they deemed to be dangerous or offensive. That number represented an increase over the previous school year's total of 179 incidents nationwide.

But censors were successful in fewer than one-third of those cases, according to the report. Over the 1988-89 school year, in contrast, nearly half of such requests were granted.

The report's authors attributed the decline to increased efforts on the part of school officials to develop written guidelines for handling censorship demands.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced that it is establishing guidelines for determining whether arts and crafts materials pre chronic long-term health hazards and should be given warning labels, as required by a new federal law.

The new labeling standards, to take effect in November, were mandated in the Labeling of Hazardous Materials Act of 1988.

All arts and crafts materials determined to present a chronic hazard will be required to carry warning labels that identify hazardous ingredients and list guidelines for safe use. The new label will supplement current labeling for acute hazards such as flammability or irritation.

The commission advises elementary schools not to purchase potentially hazardous arts or crafts materials for use by students under age 12.


Calling the U.S. dropout problem "greatly exaggerated," a new report from the Heritage Foundation concludes that most federal funding for dropout-prevention efforts is unnecessary.

In its report, the conservative Washington-based think tank said that groups that favor increased spending on education commonly state that the dropout rate is nearly 30 percent. This figure is misleading, the report argues, because it fails to account for those adults over age 20 who return to school or get a high-school-equivalency diploma.

When these adults are included, the report says, about 87 percent of the population completes high school or its equivalent by age 24. As a result, its asserts, new federal initiatives will do little to keep at-risk students in school.

More effective dropout-prevention efforts would include expanding school-choice plans, instituting higher academic standards, and placing a new emphasis on the basics in elementary schools, the report concludes.


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and about 100 other organizations have created a coalition to work to improve social and economic conditions in the black community.

The National Association of Black Organizations, formed last month, will focus on ways that the black community can help itself. The group will establish a network for sharing information; research, analyze, and make recommendations on socioeconomic issues facing blacks; develop strategies for supporting black institutions; and identify and replicate effective self-help initiatives in local communities.

James D. Williams, a spokesman for the NAACP, said the new coalition was likely to look at such issues as teenage pregnancy and dropouts. The coalition's agenda and structure, he said, will be hammered out at a meeting later this month.


In a state-by-state ranking of schools published by the newly formed American Association of Parents and Children, only two states, Connecticut and Wyoming, earned strong grades in every area measured.

The nonprofit organization was launched in July to offer parents guidance on how to improve their children's educational achievement and help them plan for college.

In a survey released late last month, the A.A.P.C. rated states on such factors as parental apathy as judged by teachers, rates of participation in Head Start, pupil-teacher ratios, per-pupil spending, graduation rates, and scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and American College Testing Program assessment. The data were compiled from a variety of education reand studies.

Only Connecticut and Wyoming earned overall A grades, and 33 states earned grades of C or below. Sixteen states received B's, including Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Nebraska, Montana, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine. Hawaii, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisiana earned F's.

For more information, contact the A.A.P.C., 560 Herndon Parkway, Suite 110, Herndon, Va. 22070; (703) 709-8612.

The RJR Nabisco Foundation has announced that it is accepting applications for the second round of its "Next Century Schools" grants, designed to support "risktaking and entrepreneurship" in education.

Last year, the foundation awarded $8.5 million to 15 schools in nine states. The awards ranged from $100,000 to $250,000 per year for three years. The foundation has pledged to provide a total of $30 million over five years.

Applications must be received by Oct. 31. Finalists will be chosen in January and asked to submit more detailed proposals in March. Winners will be announced in April.

An evaluation of schools receiving grants is being conducted by education professors at the University of Tennessee.

More information is available from the Next Century Schools Fund, RJR Nabisco Foundation, Suite 550, 1455 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington D.C. 20004.

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