State News Roundup

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Software publishers may not sue states and their agencies for copyright infringement because such action would violate the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting states "sovereign immunity,'' a federal judge in California has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Harry L. Hupp last month dismissed a suit against the regents of the University of California, saying that the federal copyright law does not explicitly include states and their agencies among those entities subject to damage claims under the law.

The suit, filed in July 1986 by BV Engineering, alleges that the University of California at Los Angeles allowed some of the firm's software programs to be duplicated and used in a manner prohibited by the copyright law.

The decision is being appealed, according to Kenneth Wasch, executive director of the Software Publishers Association, which will represent the interests of software publishers in the case.

If the appeal fails, Mr. Wasch said, the association will mount a drive to amend the copyright law to include states among those that can be sued for damages.

Three of Georgia's richest counties could be forced to pump more local money into their school systems next year, following a state audit that accuses them of underestimating property values.

The annual report by the state department of audits, released last month, charges that Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties have underestimated their real-estate values by an average of 12 percent. The counties, which should have been assessing property at 40 percent of its fair-market value, were assessing it at 30 percent, 29 percent, and 25 percent, respectively, according to Charlie Ridley, the study's director.

The state audit gauges the wealth and taxing efficiency of local governments by comparing the actual prices brought by land sales with the rates at which they are assessed.

The state department of education uses the audit to estimate how much money each school system must contribute to the public schools.

Under Georgia's education-reform act, local school systems are required to raise a certain amount of money for public education, equivalent to a tax rate of five mills. Local systems that raise more than that amount are eligible for extra state funding.

The new audit figures mean that the three wealthy counties could be forced to raise taxes to qualify for the added state dollars.

The Gwinnett County school board, for example, will be required to pay $22.2 million into its own system this year to qualify for $77 million in state funds. Next year, if the new state audit figures are used, that figure could climb to $29.7 million.

Black male students in Louisiana are at greatest risk of failing school and being forced to repeat a grade, according to an analysis by Lee P. Gary Jr., a private management consultant.

The study, released late last month, is the first to examine school failure by race and sex since the state began publishing such data three years ago, Mr. Gary said.

In analyzing data from the Louisiana Department of Education for the school years 1983-84 through 1985-86, he found that approximately 57,000 of the 490,000 public-school students in grades 1-8 were not promoted each year. Of those, two-thirds were male and three-fifths were male or female members of minority groups. Of the minority students, 99 percent were black.

Approximately 34 percent of all 1st through 8th graders who failed a grade were black males, even though black males constituted only 21 percent of the students in those grades.

"If you have to pick one given group, based upon sex and ethnicity, the black male is at greatest risk in terms of public education in Louisiana,'' said Mr. Gary, a former director of education for both the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and the New Orleans Business Task Force on Education Inc.

Mr. Gary said he plans to take his figures to state legislators in an effort to win support for mandatory full-day kindergarten for all 5-year-olds and mandatory pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds.

The Wyoming Department of Education will be partially reorganized in an effort to address the problems of "at risk'' children, a top state school official said last week.

As many as half of the state's children could be classified as at risk in terms of their potential for dropping out, suicide, drug addiction, abuse, crime, pregnancy, or illiteracy, said Audrey M. Cotherman, deputy state superintendent of public instruction and the author of a new report that outlined the departmental reorganization.

"The whole excellence movement, plus a cutback in state funding, makes us worry about the student who is at risk,'' Ms. Cotherman said. "They could easily be lost in the system.''

The report, "Children at Risk: Roadblocks to Achieving Potential,'' includes 13 recommendations for expanding or improving state programs to minimize the risks these students face.

The report recommends no additional funding for such programs, however. "We are simply rearranging people and priorities [within the department] to deal with these problems,'' Ms. Cotherman said. She said she had reassigned six department officials to work on implementing the report's suggestions.

The report will be released officially in two to three months, Ms. Cotherman said.

New Mexico's top school-finance officer has resigned following accusations that he had been "double dipping'' by collecting both a salary and retirement benefits.

Orlando Giron--who, as interim director of the state's Office of Education, oversaw New Mexico's education budget--resigned on April 30.

A veteran of more than 20 years in state government, Mr. Giron was criticized by state legislators earlier this year after it was revealed that he had been drawing from one state retirement fund while paying into another, said Alan Morgan, state superintendent of public instruction.

Under New Mexico law, state education-department employees may choose the retirement fund in which they plan to participate. Employees may not, however, begin collecting from any one fund while still employed in the same state office.

Mr. Morgan said that Mr. Giron, whom he described as having "a sterling track record,'' switched retirement funds in July 1985, when he resigned from one position and moved to another job in the same department.

"It was his impression, from a telephone conversation with the Attorney General's office, that it was O.K.,'' Mr. Morgan said. However, a new Attorney General earlier this year ruled that the practice was illegal.

Vol. 06, Issue 33

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