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A group of school districts in southwestern Kansas has filed the third lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a school-finance law passed this year by the legislature.

The suit, filed by nine rural districts, argues that the law has undermined local control through a statewide property tax, promoted unfair taxation, and hindered children in remote communities. The state has given them much of the tax burden and little of the benefit from the plan, the districts contend.

The suit seeks to open such issues as the state's property-appraisal practices and property-tax exemptions granted to industry.

The lawsuit follows similar challenges by the Burlington and Blue Valley districts to the law, which sets a minimum tax level and spending limits. (See Education Week, June 3, 1992.)

A California ballot initiative calling for cuts in welfare benefits could jeopardize thousands of infants, a new study warns.

The study, funded by the Stanford University Center for the Study of Families, Children, and Youth, argues that "the number of children harmed will greatly exceed the number helped'' by the measure.

Backed by Gov. Pete Wilson, the proposal to be voted on in November would cut welfare benefits by 10 percent initially and by an additional 15 percent six months later.

The study contends that state welfare grants are already too low to meet families' basic needs and argues that many parents lack either the skills or access to child care to replace the lost income or find jobs.

Because it would apply "even to single mothers with children younger than one year of age,'' the study says, the measure would put infants "at greatest jeopardy.''

While mothers who do not seek or find work will lose income critical to meeting their infants' needs, it says, many forced into the workplace will be unable to find or afford the kind of care "essential'' for infants.

School districts and other government agencies in Mississippi can now buy liability insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits, as a result of a new law.

In a decision last month, the state supreme court abrogated sovereign immunity for government officials, which had been extended by the legislature on an annual basis since 1982.

In response to the decision, the legislature passed a bill extending sovereign immunity through next July. It also authorizes public officials to purchase liability insurance in the event the supreme court overturns the extension. Previously, public agencies were not allowed to buy such insurance.

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