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Florida Audit Faults

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Monitoring of Bus Drivers

A review of the driving records of the men and women behind the wheels of some Florida school buses has raised questions about district policies in checking employees' backgrounds.

The study of 20 Florida school districts during 1994 by the state's auditor general found drivers with suspended licenses, drunk-driving convictions, and a variety of other citations. The report found that many drivers were hired despite multiple citations, and that districts rarely took any action against drivers with poor records.

The report found 30 instances in Dade County and another 30 in Duval County of drivers working for the district while their licenses were suspended. One driver in Pinellas County had been cited for passing a stopped school bus while he was driving another bus for the district.

A Longer Year?: Utah education officials are considering whether they can expand the school year statewide to a calendar of 220 days.

Scott W. Bean, the state superintendent, supports increasing the current minimum requirements for 990 hours of instruction and 180 instructional days. A study of the issue ordered by the state board of education is due in the fall.

About that time, the first of a handful of pilot schools should be ready to begin an experiment with a longer year, state officials said. State lawmakers have put up $1.2 million in grants for several districts to test the idea.

Paying (Back) Their Dues: More than 100 teachers in Washington State are expected to receive a partial refund of union dues after objecting to the use of the money for political purposes.

Under the two-year settlement with the National Education Association and its state affiliate, the teachers will get refunds for half of their state and national dues and all their local fees for this school year. For 1995-96, they will receive half of all dues.

The teachers and the 54,000-member Washington Education Association had battled over what portion of membership dues could be used for activities such as lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that workers have the right to withhold the portion of their dues not spent on collective bargaining.

Rare Measles Outbreak: More than 450 students at an elementary school have been vaccinated against measles after the first school-linked outbreak of the disease in Connecticut in five years.

One student was confirmed to have the disease and two others were suspected of contracting it late last month at Clover Street Elementary School in Windsor. Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, can spread through coughing and sneezing.

Officials said the three infected students are closely related and had been immunized as babies. Each of the 477 students at the school has been vaccinated at least once before for measles, officials said.

Principal Gloria Cicero said the threat of a large-scale problem is under control, "but we would be worried if another case showed up."

Bid-Rigging Plea: A milk company has pleaded guilty to conspiring to rig the price of its sales to schools in the western part of New York State.

The company, Niagara Milk Cooperative Inc., was ordered to pay $250,000 in fines, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Federal investigators, in a one-count felony charge against the company, said they had uncovered a three-year conspiracy to rig bids and otherwise refrain from competitively bidding to sell milk and related products.

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