National News Roundup
Calling children "innocent victims'' of adults' smoking, U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders is urging parents not to smoke in the home.
Speaking this month in Washington, Dr. Elders cited the high incidence of lower-respiratory-tract infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome among children whose parents smoke. She was addressing the kickoff of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery's secondhand-smoke campaign.
"What I find most compelling,'' she said, "is the special risk that secondhand tobacco smoke poses to the health of young children.''
Next month, Dr. Elders will release a report on smoking and health, which will focus on smoking and young people.
Secondhand smoke is more dangerous for children than for adults because youngsters have smaller breathing passages and breathe more rapidly than adults.
Mounting Reform: Special-education-finance reform is hitting a crescendo across the states, according to a survey published by the Center for Special Education Finance.
Researchers for the center found that 18 states have implemented some kind of reform in the past five years and that 28 states are considering major policy reforms.
Seven states that recently enacted reforms are considering further changes, according to the survey.
The researchers also gathered data on what drives reform efforts. The survey found that the top reasons for modifying special-education-finance policy were the need for greater flexibility in providing services and the need to eliminate disincentives for least restrictive placements. States also cited the goals of accountability and adequacy of services as spurs to reform.
Financial Report: State and local governments spent a record $1.06 trillion in fiscal 1991, the U.S. Census Bureau says.
The figure was 9 percent higher than that of the previous year, according to "Government Finances: 1990-91,'' a recent report by the bureau.
Education was, by far, the largest single category of spending, at $309 billion. It was followed by welfare at $130 billion, health and hospitals at $81 billion, and public safety at $80 billion. State and local governments spent $65 billion on highways, $52 billion on interest on debt, and $48 billion on government administration.
According to the report, which summarizes revenue, spending, debts, and assets, state- and local-government revenue increased 5 percent, to $1.08 trillion.
Debt increased 7 percent, to $916 billion, the report says, and governments had 4.8 percent more in assets, or cash and security holdings worth $1.5 trillion.
Common Focus: Parents and principals share common views on what parents can do to help their children in school, a new survey shows.
The survey by the National PTA and World Book Educational Products, a Chicago-based publishing company, compares parents' attitudes with those of elementary school principals polled in an earlier survey by World Book and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
Both parents and principals say it is important to encourage children in their homework, listen and talk with them, show pride in their academic growth, and bolster their problem-solving skills.
The parents ranked even higher than did the principals behaviors such as being aware of children's school activities and strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging them to pursue higher education.
Principals assigned greater importance than parents did to reading aloud with children, working to improve their vocabularies and speech, and stressing "planned use of time in the home for studying.''
About 82 percent of the parents said their children's schools do a good job of supporting parents' efforts to help children in school.
Expanded Focus: A 25-year-old national group that advocates abortion rights has announced that it is changing its name and adding sex education to its mission.
The National Abortion Rights Action League this month became the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. It will continue to use the acronym NARAL.
In announcing the name change, Kate Michelman, the director of NARAL, said that abortion rights would continue to be the group's focus but that it plans to also promote sex-education programs for grades K-12.
"We want to insure that our educational programs encourage young people to develop the skills they need to postpone premature sexual involvement and prevent pregnancy,'' Ms. Michelman said.
The group also plans to target school board elections in which candidates campaign against sex-education programs and school-based clinics, Ms. Michelman said.