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Sex-Education Measures Are Signed in 2 States

The governors of Iowa and Kentucky have signed legislation requiring all public schools in their states to offer comprehensive sex-education courses.

Their action brings to four the number of states that have adopted such mandates thus far this year. The governors of Georgia and Virginia have already signed similar bills.

In South Carolina, meanwhile, a House-Senate conference committee continued meetings last week to try to forge a consensus on a sex-education measure in that state.

Until this year, only six states--Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island--and the District of Columbia had adopted systemwide mandates.

The new Kentucky law, signed by Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson on March 29, requires all districts to offer state-approved sex-education and family-life courses beginning with the 1989-90 school year. Local citizens' committees will develop the curricula, and parents will have the right to inspect materials and withdraw their children from the courses.

The bill signed the same day by Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa is similar to one he vetoed last year.

According to a spokesman for the Governor, Mr. Branstad found the new proposal more acceptable because, unlike the earlier version, it specifically prohibits abortion counseling and the distribution of contraceptives on school grounds. Like the Kentucky measure, the Iowa law takes effect in September 1989 and permits parents to withdraw their children from the courses.

Kentucky Governor Eyeing Session on Education

Kentucky's contentious legislative session--which pitted the new governor against lawmakers in a battle over fiscal issues--ended April 1.

But Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson has promised to call a special session to force consideration of his education initiatives, which were shunned during the regular session.

Under the $6-billion budget adopted for the 1989-1990 biennium, aid to elementary and secondary education will drop from $2.88 billion to $2.83 billion.

John Brock, the state's superintendent of public instruction, said that the reduction in school aid will force layoffs within his department but that schoolchildren will not feel its effects.

Mr. Wilkinson had proposed a $2.92-billion education budget that would have financed some new initiatives he had outlined in his election campaign last fall.

State officials say those initiatives--a proposal for designating experimental "benchmark schools'' and a plan to offer financial incentives for schools to boost achievement--were fatalities of a fierce struggle between the Governor and the legislature on the issue of raising taxes.

Once a tax increase was ruled out because of the Governor's vow to veto any such measure, "human frustration'' may have spurred legislators to refuse the new education initiatives, said Jack Foster, secretary of the Education and Humanities Cabinet.

In nonbudgetary matters, the legislature voted to replace the Kentucky Essential Skills Test with another standarized test that will allow for national comparisons.

Also approved was a measure that will allows teachers to retire after 27 years of service, compared with 30 years at present.

Alaska lawmakers have sustained Gov. Steve Cowper's line-item veto of $8 million in school-construction funds from the fiscal 1989 budget for precollegiate education.

The legislature's vote on March 29 sets overall aid to schools at $618.8 million--an increase of about $23 million over this year's level.

The funds cut by the Governor were earmarked for a program that helps school districts pay off their construction debts. According to a spokesman for the education department, the Governor vetoed the appropriation because lawmakers had failed to act on his request to give the state more authority in school-construction decisions.

Acting in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed students' constitutional right to freedom of speech, the education committee of the Massachusetts House has approved a bill that would expand state protections for student journalists.

The measure stipulates that school officials may censor student publications only if the challenged material threatens to disrupt school work or violate the rights of others, according to its sponsor, Representative Nicholas Paleologos, who chairs the panel.

He said the bill was prompted by the High Court's January decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, in which it held that administrators have broad leeway to control the content of student speech that could be reasonably attributed to the school.

"At a time when education reform is focusing additional resources and attention on how to help kids think critically and creatively,'' he said, the Hazelwood decision "takes the very students who have exhibited those qualities and shuts them up, discourages them, and throws obstacles in their path.''

California businesses were urged last week to join a statewide partnership of private industry and education that would guarantee jobs or college financial aid to at-risk students who successfully complete high school.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig and representatives of the state's Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of the "California Compact'' at an April 5 press conference in Sacramento. It is similar in concept to existing coalitions in such cities as Boston and San Francisco.

Under the terms of the compact, California high-school graduates would be guaranteed "priority hiring status'' or money for college if they meet state educational guidelines and standards established by local businesses.

Vol. 07, Issue 29

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