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The U.S. Labor Department, citing teen-age drivers' poor safety records, has rejected an appeal by six states for permission to continue using student school-bus drivers.

The department ordered the states--Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming--to have all-adult driving forces by Jan. 1, 1988.

Although federal child-labor laws prohibit minors from performing such jobs, the department has traditionally issued yearly waivers to states wishing to hire 16- and 17-year-old drivers. (See Education Week, Feb. 6, 1985.)

State officials argued that it would be difficult to replace the younger drivers. In South Carolina, where approximately half of all school-bus drivers are minors, "people are really going to have to scramble" to find new drivers, said Robert Harper, a spokesman for the state education department.

Developers in California have filed more than 20 lawsuits challenging efforts by school districts to impose construction fees under a new state law. (See Education Week, Jan. 28, 1987.)

According to the California School Boards Association, the plaintiffs have raised a number of objections to the fees, which are intended to help finance school construction and renovation. Several suits argue that the fees constitute an illegal tax, some question districts' interpretations of what constitutes a "habitable space" subject to the charges, and others dispute the use of such fees to pay for deferred maintenance.

Several amendments to the law that would make it more difficult for districts to collect the fees are pending in the legislature, an association official said.

The Boston City Council, in its second vote on the issue, has approved and sent to the legislature a plan intended to improve the management of the city's school system by giving the superintendent of schools greater authority over per6sonnel and contracts. (See Education Week, Aug. 5, 1987.)

In adopting the plan last month, the council dropped a previously approved provision, opposed by the mayor and school-committee leaders, that would have required the mayor to establish a commission to oversee school reforms. In addition, the council amended the plan to allow teachers to appeal dismissals to the school committee, rather than to the superintendent. That amendment addressed objections that had been raised by the Boston Teachers Union.

Officials of 19 school districts in Oregon have voted thus far to take advantage of a financial "safety net" approved in a statewide election in May. (See Education Week, May 27, 1987.)

The provision is intended to end a string of premature district closings prompted by defeats of local tax proposals. It allows districts to assess taxes equal to the amount of revenue collected in the previous year.

An additional 28 districts will ask voters to approve levies on Sept. 15. Districts whose proposals fail will have until Sept. 28 to elect to use the safety net, according to Walter C. Koscher, coordinator for the school-finance section in the state department of education.

The West Virginia Board of Education has urged the state supreme court to overturn a lower-court ruling that sets a deadline for major changes in the state's school-finance system. (See Education Week, Aug. 5, 1987.)

Circuit Judge Larry Cook earlier this summer threatened to impound state funds and redistribute them to poorer school districts unless voters pass a proposed constitutional amendment next March that would create a statewide property tax to finance schools more equitably. Although the state board supports the amendment, it is concerned about the threat of court intervention, according to a spokesman.

In a related dispute, the West Virginia Education Association has asked the high court to strike down cuts in education funding approved by the legislature this year and to order the legislature to adopt majorimprovements in education called for by state Judge Arthur Recht five years ago.

Mary Amaya, a Rialto, Calif., woman who objected when her son was denied standardized intelligence testing under a court ban on such assessments for black students in the state, has drawn support from a black member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

William B. Allen, a Reagan appointee, persuaded the panel to speed up a proposed study on the validity and use of standardized tests and has urged California officials to seek ways to permit the tests for blacks in some cases. Ms. Amaya argues that such tests would help diagnose her son Demond Crawford's school problems.

The ban stems from a federal district court's 1979 ruling, in Larry P. v. Wilson Riles, that the tests are culturally biased. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that decision for a second time last year. (See Education Week, Nov. 12, 1986).

With the next teacher-astronaut notscheduled to go into space for many years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has decided not to renew the employment contracts of five of the seven Teacher-in-Space finalists working for the agency.

The finalists remained on the nasa payroll after Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to travel into space, and her six fellow crew members were killed aboard the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986. The teachers conducted workshops and made public-relations appearances for the agency. (See Education Week, Jan. 28, 1987.)

Barbara Morgan, the Idaho teacher who was the runner-up to Ms. McAuliffe in the competition, will remain under contract for at least the coming school year, according to Robert W. Brown, head of the agency's educational-affairs office. He said nasa will also continue to pay the salary of Richard Methia, a finalist who will work full time this year for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a nonprofit group started by the families of the Challenger crew.

Vol. 07, Issue 01

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