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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Wyo. Judge Extends School Finance System

A state district court judge in Wyoming has said the state's school finance system, which was found unconstitutional in 1995, can be used one more year.

Judge Nicholas Kalokathis issued a letter of opinion last week to the lawyers challenging the new finance plan approved by Wyoming lawmakers in April. In the letter, Judge Kalokathis said he found a compelling interest to leave the old system in place for the 1997-98 school year.

In 1995, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared the school finance system unconstitutional and ordered it overhauled. Lawmakers were to have a new system in place by July 1 of this year.

Lawyers for the districts that originally challenged the system have asked for an injunction to bar the new system's enactment, arguing that it is no better at equalizing funding among districts than the old system was. State officials were expected to defend key elements of the new finance plan in a district court hearing set for late last week.

Wilson Says School Laws Illegal

More than a dozen California education statutes may violate a ban on race and gender preferences in public schools and government agencies, Gov. Pete Wilson said last week.

The Republican governor cited laws that mandate science programs for women and minorities, set minority quotas for some teacher training programs, and encourage affirmative action hiring policies. He asked lawmakers, beginning in January, to repeal or amend those and other laws to conform with the ban, known as Proposition 209.

A flurry of legal challenges had left the future of the ban in limbo after its passage last fall in a statewide referendum, but the state is now free to enforce the measure. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the implementation of Proposition 209 while opponents seek a high court hearing on its constitutionality.

In a written statement, Mr. Wilson said, "Equal rights under the law, regardless of race or gender, is the only principle that can unify a richly diverse, multiracial society like California."

Calif. Teachers To Be More Computer Literate

Gov. Pete Wilson has signed a law that will force California's entry-level teachers to meet new and tougher requirements for computer literacy, beginning in 2000.

The law will require aspiring teachers to pass technology courses before getting their certificates. Currently, teachers can work for up to five years with a partial credential while they meet technology requirements.

"This will ensure that no teacher enters the classroom without having acquired certain skills," said Linda Bond, the director of government relations for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The measure also adds advanced computer classes to the list of basic-level coursework in technology that California teachers are required to have studied. Finally, the law calls for a new measure of technology competence for teacher candidates. That measure has not been developed, but it could be an exam on computer literacy or standards for technology courses.

Conn. Cites Spec. Ed. Overidentification

Too many Connecticut students may end up in special education classes simply because they are not properly taught to read, a state report suggests.

And students with learning disabilities may be overidentified in the state, according to the report, written by state education department officials with input from outside education groups.

About 14 percent of Connecticut students receive special education services each year, and the number of students identified as disabled is growing at more than double the rate of the growth in the general population, the report found. In school year 1978-79, about 10 percent of the state's students were in special education.

Many newly identified students have been diagnosed with learning disabilities, speech problems, and emotional and behavioral disorders. Research suggests, the report released this month says, that proper reading instruction, using a variety of approaches, "would have provided the children with the necessary intervention to benefit from their instruction without the need for identification."

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