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Parents in South Carolina who want to teach their children at home must continue to pass a basic-skills test, a state judge has ruled.

A group of home schoolers last year argued in court that the test, mandated by the state legislature in 1988, is insensitive and unfair. They challenged as flawed a state-funded study that found that the test is valid for testing home schoolers. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1990.)

But Acting Judge Ellis B. Drew Jr., in a 37-page decision issued last month, rejected their claims. The legislature had the authority to impose a testing requirement on home schoolers, he wrote, and the test was validated "in a manner that is neither arbitrary nor capricious."

"If the home-schooling parents desire a remedy here, it does not lie in this action," Judge Drew wrote. "Its consideration rests with the General Assembly."

Michael P. Farris, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based group that represented the parents, said he would appeal the ruling.

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower-court ruling that affirmative-action guidelines, and not seniority alone, must be adhered to when laying off6teachers in Boston.

The Feb. 21 decision came in response to the Boston Teachers Union's appeal of a ruling made last spring by U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. (See Education Week, May 30, 1990.)

Judge Garrity, in orders closing the long-running Boston school-desegregation case, mandated that a court-ordered affirmative-action plan covering teachers and administrators remain in place in the school system.

The teachers' union argued that the plan--which requires that 25 percent of teachers and administrators be black and 10 percent come from other minority groups--violates teachers' seniority rights.

The issue has been particularly sensitive in Boston because the school system is facing severe financial difficulties that could result in some teachers' being laid off.

Even before the appeals-court decision was handed down, the union announced it was willing to pursue the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A superior-court judge in Atlanta has ruled that 12 teachers in the state may sue for back pay and damages they suffered when they were illegally fired for failing a teacher-assessment test.

The teachers all were dismissed and told they could not teach in the state for at least a year because they had failed the Teacher Performance Assessment Instrument, anon-the-job evaluation.

The legislature last year abolished the test after the state supreme court upheld a three-year-old ruling by Superior Court Judge Frank M. Eldridge that the state could not require beginning teachers to pass the test before working in the state. (See Education Week, June 20, 1990.)

In an order filed late last month, Judge Eldridge said that state officials must compensate the 12 teachers and restore their seniority and pension rights. The tpai was "arbitrary, vague, overly broad, and unreasonably subjective," he wrote.

Moreover, he wrote, the state cannot claim sovereign-immunity rights in the case because it willfully violated the teachers' constitutional due-process rights.

All 12 teachers are back working in the state. They are due about $550,000 in back pay, said Michael Kramer, a lawyer for the Georgia Association of Educators.

The trial to determine damages is expected to begin this spring.

The Oregon Health Services Commission has approved a set of new rankings for medical conditions that the state's Medicaid program will fund.

The state's unique effort to develop a priority list of health services that it would provide to poor residents has been controversial ever since the legislature gave its approval to the project in 1989. Under the proposal, the state's Medicaid plan would be expanded to include more poor people. But the state would only pay for as many services as its budget allowed, thus leaving uncovered services that had been determined to be relatively less necessary or less cost-effective. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 1990.)

Last year, the commission drew fire for releasing a preliminary ranking of health services that did not include certain preventive services, such as immunizations and family planning. Under the new list, which was released last month, these services appear in the top 25 percent of all services ranked.

Highest priority would be given to aiding those suffering from pneumonia or tuberculosis. The lowest priority would be placed on treating patients who are terminally ill, and babies who weigh less than 1.1 pounds or who have no brain at birth.

The state's plan requires a waiver of Medicaid rules from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Vol. 10, Issue 24

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