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A California superior-court judge presiding over the conflict-of-interest trial of Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig has ruled that Mr. Honig's defense cannot discuss the merits or successes of the Quality Education Project, the parental-involvement program to which he is accused of steering state contracts.

Patrick Hallinan, Mr. Honig's lawyer, said the ruling will make the case difficult for the defense to win. Mr. Hallinan asked to postpone the trial in order to appeal the judge's ruling, but his request was denied.

Lawyers last week made opening arguments to a jury of seven women and five men, and prosecutors began calling witnesses.

Mr. Honig could be ousted from office and face 12 years in prison if he is convicted of all four felony counts. He is charged with profiting from the contracts awarded to the Q.E.P., which at the time was run by his wife from their San Francisco home. The trial is expected to last through the middle of next month.


Commissioner of Education Thomas Sobol of New York State has backed off of a plan to force the consolidation of many small school districts to save money.

Mr. Sobol said he will continue to push for an examination of 139 districts that might be merged with neighbors. But he acknowledged that local opposition to his plan to seek power to mandate the mergers makes that step unlikely now.

The plan to force consolidations had few backers in the legislature and had not been embraced by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. Once the review of the districts is complete, state officials said they will look again at how to implement any changes.


The North Dakota Senate has passed an $8 million education-aid bill designed to assist deficit-spending districts.

The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the bill this month on a 25-to-23 party-line vote.

The leadership of the Republican-controlled House will probably not act on the bill soon, however, according to the measure's principal sponsor, Sen. Bonnie Heinrich, a Democrat.

The bill lost much of its impact, moreover, because it failed to get the two-thirds Senate majority necessary to retain its emergency clause.

The provision would have made the money--about $64 per pupil--available to districts almost immediately and would have warded off the effects of an education-spending cut expected in March, Ms. Heinrich said.


In an effort to forestall a judicially imposed restructuring of Missouri's school-finance system, legislative leaders have appointed a joint panel to devise a new funding formula.

A state judge already has heard a legal challenge to the existing formula and is expected to rule in the case within a month.

But lawmakers--who previously have been unable to decide how to overhaul the formula--are anxious to maintain control over the process.


The use of property taxes to pay for public education will become an increasingly contentious issue in Minnesota, according to a state report issued this month.

The report predicts that the aging of the state's population will contribute to increasing tension over how to pay for public education. By early next century, the report predicts, a larger percentage of the state's population will be residents over age 65 who live on fixed incomes.

Local property taxes currently account for 42 percent of funding for precollegiate education in the state.


The federally mandated expansion of the Medicaid program to cover more poor pregnant women and children is not the principal cause of the spiraling cost increases experienced by the states, according to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study challenges assertions by many state officials that the rise in women's and children's enrollment in Medicaid has been responsible for fiscal pressures on the states.

Federal requirements that states expand coverage for pregnant women and children were responsible for 11 percent of the 4.8 million-person increase in the overall program from 1988 to 1991, according to the study.

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