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The Open Road

A new Texas law intended to exempt home-school students from driver-education courses may allow all of the state's 16-year-olds to skip the class.

Until this year, students were required to pass a course at their high school or a private driving school to get a Texas license. But many parents who school their children at home complained.

Rep. Jim Horn, a Republican, sponsored an amendment to allow parents to sign off on their children's driving competence in order to get a license. (Texas does not require a road test.) Many public schools would not admit the home-school students to their driving classes. Beyond that, some rural parents had to drive 100 miles to the nearest private driving school. "People are so joyous they could hug me, because they can't afford [the private school], and their kids need the license to get to work," Mr. Horn said.

But not everyone is celebrating.

Officials at the state department of public safety say that the wording of the law may enable all students to learn to drive under their parents' tutelage only. The state attorney general has been asked to clarify the issue.

"It really shouldn't have been in the bill," said Rep. Jim Bailey.

"No one believes any parent is going to teach this curriculum exactly the way it is laid out," added Phil Ward, the president of USA Training, a defensive-driving school in Austin.

Trying Times

Nowadays, it takes financial hardship or a dangerous medical condition to stay off a New Jersey jury. It is not good enough to just be a teacher.

In an effort to get more diverse juries, lawmakers ended the longtime practice of granting teachers an automatic jury-duty exemption because of their occupation. The legislators are introducing not only teachers to the state's trials, but also police officers, doctors, dentists, and themselves. The change is being applauded by judges, but is disrupting many classrooms.

The law went into effect during the summer, and several teachers have complained that time away from their classes at the beginning of the school year has caused problems.

And some principals and superintendents are worried about the costs of hiring substitutes. Camden County administrators say they will tally the costs of the teachers' exemption and plead with lawmakers next year to restore the practice.

--Meg Sommerfeld & Lonnie Harp

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