State News Roundup

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Chicago and 33 other Illinois school districts can sue asbestos manufacturers and suppliers for damages, the state supreme court has ruled.

The decision, handed down late last month, upholds a lower-court ruling that the districts may proceed with a lawsuit charging that more than 70 asbestos makers and suppliers were negligent and can be held liable for making or selling a product that they should have known was dangerous.

Susan Einspar-Wayne, a lawyer for the Chicago district, said Chicago schools will seek to recover the estimated $500 million to $1 billion that will be needed for asbestos-control projects.

An order by the New York Commissioner of Education to exempt schools from some requirements of the state's school asbestos-safety law could save schools as much as $500 million, the New York State School Boards Association has estimated.

Acting on a petition from the association, Thomas Sobol, the state Commissioner, decided that school personnel who have received 16 hours of training accredited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may perform certain small-scale abatement projects.

New York regulations had required schools to hire consultants even for small asbestos-control projects.

The New England Board of Higher Education has approved a plan to allow Massachusetts students to continue to receive reduced-tuition benefits at public colleges and universities in five other New England states.

The tuition benefits were threatened by the fiscal crisis in Massachusetts, which led Gov. Michael S. Dukakis to freeze and partially veto the state's appropriation for the higher-education board. Without funding from the state, the agency was prepared to cut off services--including reduced tuition under the Regional Student Program--to Massachusetts residents.

Under the program, students from one state can attend public universities in other New England states and pay the in-state tuition rate, plus a 25 percent surcharge. The program is open to those pursuing specialized degree programs not available at public institutions in their state.

Under the plan approved by the board last month, the surcharge for Massachusetts students will be increased from 25 percent to 50 percent, thus providing funding to allow the state to remain in the Regional Student Program. The higher-education board says officials in other states probably will not increase their surcharges until the 1990-91 school year.

Even with a doubling of the surcharge, tuition for students in the program will remain substantially below out-of-state rates. For example, out-of-state tuition at the University of Connecticut is $5,820. But a Massachusetts resident who attends the school under the rsp program with a 50 percent surcharge on in-state tuition will pay $2,460.

Beginning in 1990, some vocational-education courses in South Dakota high schools may be used to satisfy graduation requirements, the South Dakota Board of Education has decided.

Officials said the new policy could help reduce the dropout rate by providing new opportunities for students who shy away from such academic subjects as math, science, and English.

Under the new program, students will be able to use credits from courses in agriculture education, vocational business and office education, or vocational home economics to fulfill one requirement in each academic area.

The state board of regents must still decide whether the academic equivalent credits will meet college-entrance requirements.

Officials of the Iowa State Education Association say a recent poll commissioned by their union shows a significant increase in public support for higher teacher salaries.

Results of a statewide survey of 606 voters conducted in September and released last month show that 44 percent of voters who were polled said they thought teachers were paid too little; only 28 percent of voters surveyed in a 1979 poll responded in that way.

Seventy percent of voters in the new survey favored increased state expenditures on public schools, according to union officials.

Union officials said they would use the poll results to push for a $2,000-a-year pay increase for teachers and for a minimum starting salary of $22,000.

Vol. 09, Issue 10

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