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Affirmative-Action Foes File Calif. Ballot Measure

Organizers of an effort to end government-sponsored affirmative-action programs in California have announced that they have secured more than the required number of signatures to put their petition on the ballot in November.

Gov. Pete Wilson joined Ward Connerly, a member of the University of California board of regents who is black, in spearheading the movement. After the petition was submitted on Feb. 21, Mr. Wilson issued a statement applauding supporters' efforts "to create a truly level playing field on which all Californians can compete."

The proposal, known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, would bar the state from granting preferential treatment to individuals on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity in public employment or admissions to public universities.

State law requires that 690,000 signatures be submitted for a constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot. The petition's more than 1 million signatures have yet to be validated.

Stadium Aid

Art Modell, the owner of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns, has promised to give the state of Maryland $24 million for school construction in an effort to win over legislators who were opposed to a stadium deal designed to lure the team to Baltimore.

Some lawmakers had tried to scuttle the deal between Mr. Modell and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who promised to build a new, $200 million stadium if the Browns would move to Maryland. Under the proposed legislation the governor backs, the stadium would be funded by state lottery money. Critics have argued that state revenue ought to be used to construct public schools, not sports facilities.

But a key critic, Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., reportedly said last week that he was satisfied with Mr. Modell's offer.

Lawmakers are expected to vote in the next few weeks on a bill that would ratify the deal.

Lottery 'Raid'

The Idaho legislature has passed a bill that would divert 1 percent of gross state lottery revenues, which are now devoted entirely to work on schools and state buildings, to an outdoor-recreation fund.

The chairman of the Senate education panel, Gary J. Schroeder, argued that the measure, which was approved by both chambers of the legislature last month, would siphon money from school facilities at a time when the state faces a $700 million backlog in building repairs and new construction.

"We sold the lottery as something for schools," Mr. Schroeder said. "This is just the beginning of the raid."

Currently, 50 percent of net profits are set aside for school maintenance and construction, and 50 percent for a fund that pays for upkeep and construction of state buildings.

The lottery is expected to gross $100 million this year and realize a profit of $21 million. Under the new measure, 1 percent of the gross revenues--a projected $1 million this year--would be set aside for the recreation fund, leaving $20 million to split between the schools and the building fund.

Charter Schools

A bill hat would allow 45 charter schools to open in Illinois is expected pass in the legislature this session, after House and Senate members signed off on a compromise.

A charter bill passed in the House last year would have guaranteed charter school teachers jobs in their districts if they left the new schools, while the companion Senate bill offered no such security. The compromise, announced Feb. 22, would guarantee such a teacher a job if one were available in his area of certification.

The bill would allow 15 charter schools in Chicago, 15 in surrounding counties, and 15 downstate.

Special-Education Aid

Two school districts in South Dakota will have a year's reprieve before they lose preferential treatment in getting special-education aid.

The state Senate voted 34-1 late last month to wait until the 1999-2000 school year before changing a provision in the state special-education formula that gives extra money to districts with 13,000 or more students. Only Sioux Falls and Rapid City qualify.

The state House, which had proposed making the change in the 1998-99 school year, voted 58-6 to accept the Senate's bill.

South Dakota legislators also approved a bill that would give school superintendents, principals and supervisors the authority to punish students for improper conduct at school-related activities and school-sponsored events that are held off school property.

"The bill is intended to allow school officials to discipline students involved in fights or violent behavior off school premises if it affects the health or safety of the school," Sen. Keith Paisley said in a statement.

Student Board Members

Tennessee school boards would be able to name high school students as advisory, nonvoting members under bills before the legislature.

The House and Senate education committees passed different version of the bill last week. Under the House bill, student board members would be optional, while the Senate bill would mandate at least four student advisory members for each board. Both bills would require equal numbers of student representatives from academic and vocational programs.

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