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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans--which is hearing the state's appeal of a ruling overturning Louisiana's law requiring "balanced treatment" of creation science--has asked the State Supreme Court to render an opinion on the facts in the case before it decides on the appeal.

"The Fifth Circuit will still decide the case," said David A. Hamilton, a lawyer for the state department of education, "but state supreme courts often help the circuit courts decide issues that really involve state law. Most times, the appeals court goes along with the state supreme court," he said.

U.S. District Judge Adrian Duplantier, basing his decision on the Louisiana constitution, struck down the state's law in November on the grounds that the state's constitution grants the state board of education--and not the legislature--sole authority to require teaching of particular courses.

By a three-to-two vote, the West Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which the state teachers' association challenged the authority of Gov. John D. Rockefeller 4th to cut 10 percent from the state budget. The cuts would reduce the education budget $22 million, or 4 percent.

The West Virginia Education Association will not appeal the case, according to Staff Counsel Jacqueline A. Kinnaman.

The teachers' organization had intended to argue that the state constitution allows only the legislature--not the governor--to make budget cuts, according to Ms. Kinnaman.

More than 1,000 teaching, health-care, and correctional jobs could be lost if the legislature agrees to the Governor's budget proposals.

The teachers' group is also concerned that teachers may be asked to serve as substitutes during their free period to save the state money, according to Ms. Kinnaman.

The Pennsylvania Senate Education Commmittee has unanimously recommended that the full senate confirm Robert C. Wilburn as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Mr. Wilburn, 39, served as secretary of budget and administration during Gov. Richard Thornburgh's first term.

The novel idea of fingerprinting schoolchildren, initiated last month on a voluntary basis in one New Jersey county, has attracted further support. A bill introduced in the state's legislature would require schools to allow county sheriffs to fingerprint children in kindergarten through 8th grade if their parents give consent. (See letter on page 19.)

The bill, introduced Jan. 27, would include public and private schools and would turn over the fingerprint records to either the parents or the school. Until now, fingerprinting has been confined to private schools in Union County.

The procedure was initiated there by the county sheriff's office as a way of assisting police in identifying runaways, or victims of violent crimes such as kidnappings. Parents of about 44,000 children gave their consent for the procedure.

Press reports of children who have simply disappeared, despite extensive police efforts to locate them, largely prompted the new legislation, said an aide to Angela L. Perun, a state representative from Union County. Ms. Perun introduced the bill.

However, the provision in the bill that would permit a school to hold the fingerprint records until the student turns 18 drew criticism from one Union County school administrator.

"I don't like that at all," said Superintendent John T. Farinella. "That would put the schools in a very tenuous position."

Mr. Farinella said some parents have expressed concern about how the records might be used. He said he supports the concept of fingerprinting, but believes that only parents should have custody of the records.

Vol. 02, Issue 21

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