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The Montana Board of Public Instruction has voted unanimously to file suit to block a new executive order requiring it to submit proposed regulations to Gov. Stanley Stephens for review and possible revision.

According to Alan Nicholson, the board's chairman, the order violates the education panel's constitutional authority to exercise general supervision over Montana's public schools.

Lawyers for the board and the Governor agreed on Feb. 13 to hold negotiations during the next three weeks in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. Mr. Nicholson, however, predicted that the matter is unlikely to be resolved outside the courts.

Victor Bjornberg, the Governor's press secretary, said Mr. Stephens believes that after the three-week cooling-off period the board will see "that it is appropriate for the executive of the state to review regu4lations."

The requirement, which applies to all state agencies, creates "another level of review, so that rules are coordinated and their fiscal impact is known," Mr. Bjornberg added.

Last December, West Virginia's supreme court struck down a similar law ordering the state's school board to submit its proposed regulations to a legislative education-oversight committee. The high court ruled unanimously that the law unconstitutionally interfered with the board's responsiblity to set state education policy.

Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana last week was expected to call a special session of the legislature to undertake "basic fiscal reform."

According to a spokesman for the Governor, Mr. Roemer planned to reconvene legislators in Baton Rouge on Feb. 22 to discuss alternatives for dealing with a budget deficit that could reach as high as $700 million.

Karen Noles, Mr. Roemer's spokesman, said she did not yet know whether education issues would be discussed during the session.

She added that the Governor would not insist that lawmakers amend a popular and longstanding property-tax exemption.

A similar special session last fall foundered when legislators refused to approve a decrease in the $75,000 homestead exemption.

"This plan is a little more realistic," Ms. Noles said.

The North Carolina Board of Education has approved a new assessment procedure for 1st and 2nd graders that relies on teacher observations, rather than standardized tests.

The board banned the use of norm-referenced standardized tests for children in those grades in 1987, maintaining that they were unreliable and placed students under undue stress. State education officials were given a year to develop and field test alternative assessments.

Under the new procedure approved unanimously by the 13-member board this month, teachers will gauge 1st and 2nd graders' communication and math skills through observations and samples of their work.

Vol. 08, Issue 22

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