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Many of the Milwaukee school system's alternative and partnership schools are a waste of the district's resources, according to a study prepared for the school board.

The report presented to the board last month evaluated 27 of the schools, rating seven as "below average'' and eight as "poor.''

The study cites such problems as dreary atmospheres, low expectations for students, and a lack of challenging curricula.

The "ineffective'' schools, which consume $3 million in district resources each year, do not provide true educational alternatives but rather serve as dumping grounds for the district's worst students, the report says.

"The vast majority of students who attend ineffective alternative and partnership schools are being set up for future failure in education, employment, and life,'' said the author, Tony Baez, a faculty associate at the Center for Urban Community Development at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

"To allow this to continue is an educational travesty'' that discriminates against poor and minority children, Mr. Baez said.

The report cites the eight programs rated as "good'' or "excellent'' as proof that such schools are viable.

It recommends that the district develop an educationally sound philosophy for the schools and shut down or cease funding schools that do not work.

The district currently operates more than 30 programs for 3,500 students who have violated disciplinary policies or been deemed at risk of dropping out.


A group of low-income families in Milwaukee last week filed a federal lawsuit challenging the exclusion of private religious schools from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Under the state-funded experiment, several hundred children are provided with vouchers to attend nonsectarian private schools.

The Landmark Legal Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo.-based public-interest law group that helped defend the initial legal challenge to the pilot voucher program, filed the suit on Sept. 30 on behalf of four families.

The suit, filed against State Superintendent of Public Instruction John T. Benson, alleges that the choice program violates the families' constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and equal protection of the laws by "prohibiting their access to and choice of sectarian private schools.''

The suit seeks to have the choice program's bar on private religious schools removed and to have state officials solicit the participation of such schools.


The Chicago school district has warehoused supplies for school-meal programs years past their recommended shelf life, possibly endangering students, federal officials have charged.

A U.S. Agriculture Department official last month informed city and state health officials that nearly $1 million in food supplied under the federal school-lunch program had passed its expiration date. The items included pork, ground turkey, beans, cheese, and peanuts. In one case, canned beans with a one-year shelf life had been stored for 12 years.

School officials acknowledged that the food had remained on the shelves too long, but said it remained safe. No cases of food-related illnesses stemming from the warehousing of food have been reported, they said.


The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago should examine and "refocus'' its traditional methods for transmitting faith through schools and religious education, a panel appointed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has proposed.

A new strategy is needed, the team of experts said last month, in light of a hemorrhaging budget, shrinking Catholic school population, and need for evangelization and aid to the poor.

The panel recommended that every parish develop over the next 18 months a plan for comprehensive religious education. Under the proposed strategy, religious education would be a priority in the educational program of all Catholic schools, and some parishes would share the funding of an "anchor school'' with neighboring parishes instead of having their own schools.

The position paper notes that not every parish can afford to maintain its own school, "while the archdiocese can no longer support a deficit school program.''

Parishes, including both churches and schools, are expected to run a deficit of nearly $15 million in 1993.

The position paper also recommends that some parish schools that serve the poor and meet other criteria be eligible for archdiocesan financial support.

This month, the archdiocese is to begin consultation meetings on the position paper with representatives of its 382 parishes in Cook and Lake counties.

Early next year, Cardinal Bernardin is expected to announce his final decisions on issues raised during the planning process.

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