State News Roundup

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For the first time, girls outnumbered boys as winners of New York State's Regents College Scholarship Awards, the state department of education announced.

Girls won 51.1 percent of the 25,000 awards, which are worth $250 a year for five years.

The proportion of female winners has increased since 1987, when legislation required the department to consider high-school grades, as well as scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, in granting the awards. Although that legislation expired in 1988, a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John M. Walker barred the state from using only sat scores in awarding the scholarships.

Despite the gains by female students, a coalition of civil-rights and public-interest groups charged last week that the program remains biased against women and minorities. They pointed out, for example, that boys won 61 percent of the Empire State Scholarships, which are worth $2,000 a year.

The groups urged the department to institute a new formula that would base the awards on high-school grades and school size.

Two companies guilty of rigging bids for school-milk contracts have agreed to pay $11.5 million in fines, the U.S. Justice Department has announced.

Borden Inc. and the Southland Corp., which operates the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, agreed to pay $4 million each in criminal penalties. To settle the government's civil claims, Southland agreed to pay $2 million and Borden to pay $1.5 million.

Both companies pleaded guilty to the charges, which also included rigging milk contracts for military bases. The schools involved were in Florida; the military bases were in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico.

The agreement, reached earlier this month, must still be approved by the U.S. District Court in Tampa.

School boards in Montana can adopt policies requiring employees to live within the district, the state's attorney general has ruled.

Such restrictions do not infringe on either the state or U.S. Constitution, Marc Racicot said in the ruling issued last month in response to a request from the Big Horn County attorney.

Similar requirements have been upheld by courts in Arkansas and Washington state, he noted, as long as they are enacted for reasonable purposes.

"In all cases, the ordinance or rule was supported by an articulated reason rationally related to a legitimate government goal," the attorney general wrote.

The formal opinion was requested because the Hardin school board was considering a residency policy after local merchants complained that a number of school employees were commuting to work from Billings.

High-achieving students in Maryland will be eligible to apply for free tuition at the University of Maryland's nine undergraduate campuses under a new policy adopted by the university's board of regents this month.

The goal of the plan is to attract the state's brightest students, most of whom traditionally opt to attend college outside the state.

Under the policy, each campus may waive tuition for up to 2.5 percent of its student body, which could allow approximately 1,600 students statewide to attend the university tuition-free.

To qualify, students must be Maryland residents. They must also have at least one of the following qualifications: a high-school grade average of at least B-plus; a combined score of at least 1200 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test; and outstanding artistic ability or unusual leadership qualities.

The plan, which is expected to cost $2.6 million, will not require any additional state funds for the university, officials said.

Vol. 09, Issue 25

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