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Six Hanksville, Utah, parents have gone to court in an attempt to keep their children at home rather than allow them to ride 120 miles to school and back each day.

Sherry Ekker, who has placed her daughter Leslie in a private tutorial arrangement paid for by the six parents, says the four-hour round trip is too strenuous and dangerous for young children.

"They go through a very twisty, tough road," Mrs. Ekker said. "The boys and the girls are quite rowdy. Last year one kid got a broken leg, one kid got a black eye, one had to get six stitches. Our oldest daughter once saw the bus driver get beat up so bad a student had to drive the bus in."

Until this school year, students in grades 1 through 6 attended the elementary school in Hanksville, and only older students had to make the daily bus ride to the town of Bicknell. Over the summer, however, parents were notified that Hanksville's sixth grade would be discontinued, and that sixth-grade children as well would henceforth ride to Bicknell.

"We think a sixth-grader is too young for that ride," Mrs. Ekker said. "We offered to pay a teacher's wages if the kids could go to school here. The state board of education couldn't see why the local board would pass that up, but it did."

The parents hired a certified teacher and set up their own school. Their right to do so is being challenged in court, where they face charges of willfully refusing to send their daughters to public or private school.

Texas Governor William P. Clements said in Washington last week that the state could educate its illegal aliens without "serious problem,'' but added that the state will persist in asking the Supreme Court to uphold a 1975 law that bars such children from free admission to public schools.

His statement contradicts one of the state's main arguments in favor of the law, which says that without restrictions, Spanish-speaking children would flood the public schools, drastically raising costs because of their need for bilingual instruction and other special programs.

According to a spokesman for the governor, those predictions were made based on inflated estimates, ranging from 100,000 to 200,000, of what the illegal-alien enrollment would be were the law overturned.

Now, says the spokesman, that estimate is much lower. This fall, the state is educating the same number of aliens it would have without the law, because the state department of education has said all alien children are allowed free schooling until the case is resolved.

The illegal-alien enrollment this fall is estimated at 11,000.

Even if Minnesota public school systems are shut down by strikes, they must continue to provide transportation to private-school students, Attorney General Warren Spannaus says.

Under the 1970 state law providing transportation to pupils in non-public schools, the local public school district normally has the authority to set the days on which transportation will be provided. Mr. Spannaus said, however, that such authority does not include the right to deny transportation during a strike against public schools.

Some 66,000 private-school students in Minnesota received free transportation in 1979-80, the last year for which figures are available, according to Jerry Pavek, state director of pupil transportation.

The attorney general's opinion could cause serious logistical problems for the school districts, Mr. Pavek said, because bus runs to private schools typically are integrated into the school districts' public-school routes.

So far this fall, teachers in several districts have threatened to walk out, but no strikes have been reported in the state, Mr. Pavek said.

"This question [of what to do in case of a strike] had never come up before," he added.

Once again, California is a few years ahead of the rest of the country.

A decade-long enrollment decline in the state's schools--the nation's largest state system--will end next year, according to state demographic projections. Nationally, the enrollment decline is expected to last for at least a few more years.

Wilson Riles, state superintendent of public instruction, said total enrollment will increase in the 1982-83 school year, "and it will continue to increase each year for much, if not all, of this decade."

This school year, Mr. Riles said, the state's elementary- and secondary-school enrollment stands at approximately 4.08 million--0.3 percent lower than last year's figure.

But a decline this year in high-school enrollments was nearly offset by slight increases in kindergarten and in grades 1 through 8.

"It is time now to begin encouraging some of our youth to start thinking of teaching as a career," Mr. Riles said. "In order to avoid a teacher shortage later in the decade, it behooves us to start addressing this problem now."

Also in California, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., is considering whether to sign a bill that would strip the state Department of Education of its authority to govern high-school sports. The bill recently was passed by the legislature over the objections of education department officials.

Jerry A. Cummings, a department spokesman, said the bill would shift all regulatory authority over public and private high school sports to the California Interscholastic Federation, a voluntary group founded in 1914. The education department has allowed the federation to govern interscholastic athletics for decades, he said.

Mr. Cummings said state legislators drafted the measure after the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights ruled that the state education department regulated women's sports in a discriminatory manner. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit initiated in 1978 by the California Women's Coaches Academy.

The women's coaches said the education department, acting through the federation, hired more officials and scheduled more games for men's sports than it did for women's events.

The state education department responded by forming a state athletic advisory committee, which recommended last December that sweeping changes be made in governance of interscholastic athletics. The interscholastic federation, Mr. Cummings said, complained to lawmakers that the department was acting too harshly.

"Principally, we believe there is an appropriate role for the Department of Education to play in the regulation of athletics," Mr. Cummings said. "We believe we are the right state agency to be responsible for these matters."

"Hello, this is Pastor Everett Sileven. The Faith Baptist Church has been padlocked by the State Department of Education. If you wish to speak to me, please call...."

That is the recorded message callers to the church received last week as Mr. Sileven attempted to persuade a federal district judge in Omaha to order state officials to unlock his school. Nebraska courts had ordered the school closed because it was operating without the required accreditation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sileven's students are attending the Liberty Christian School operated by the Open Door Baptist Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Mr. Sileven said the padlocking of the church violates the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide early next month whether it will hear his case.

Should the Supreme Court decide to hear the Nebraska suit, the case may be joined by another state which has experienced a long-running controversy over regulation of sectarian schools. Maine's attorney general is considering filing a brief supporting Nebraska's authority to regulate the schools.

Vol. 01, Issue 04

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