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A Minnesota appellate court has upheld a state program that allows high-school juniors and seniors to take classes at public or private colleges and universities, including religiously affiliated ones, at state expense.

A panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals on April 28 upheld a trial judge's dismissal of a lawsuit by the Minnesota Federation of Teachers challenging the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program.

The union charged that the participation of several private religious colleges in the program violated the state constitution's ban on using public money to benefit religious institutions.

The court said the benefit the colleges received under the program were "indirect and incidental'' and that the state law barred secondary-school students from taking religion classes under the program.

A similar lawsuit challenging the program under the U.S. Constitution was dismissed by a federal judge in 1990.


The State of Maryland will channel $2 million in surplus school-construction funds into a newly instituted grant program to help school systems refurbish their science laboratories.

The "challenge grants,'' announced last week by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, will encourage school systems in the state to cooperate with local businesses in order to raise their share of the necessary revenue to upgrade to upgrade biology, chemistry, and physics labs.

Facilities in Montgomery County, Md., an affluent suburb of Washington, are among the nation's best. But many schools in Maryland's largely rural western and Eastern Shore counties, as well as in Baltimore, lack even the most basic equipment, said Michael J. Hooker, the chairman of the Governor's Committee on High School Science Labs for the 21st Century.

Money for the program became available, officials said, because the sluggish economy has forced contractors to submit lower bids on school-construction projects, which are funded in part by the state.

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