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A California appeals court has ruled that school districts in the state can levy fees on parents for busing their children.

Districts cannot, however, charge the handicapped or people who are unable to afford the transportation fees, according to the ruling issued late last month by the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento.

The court said that charging parents sliding-scale fees to bus their children to school does not violate the state constitution's guarantee of a free education because free busing is not part of the educational process. The exception, the court said, is when free busing is the only means by which children can get to school.

A lawyer for the California Department of Education said the decision, brought in a suit filed by the Arcadia Unified School District, will help districts in the financially troubled state raise large sums of revenue they otherwise would not have.

Kindergartners in 15 Georgia school districts will begin studying foreign languages under a new pilot program beginning next fall.

Under the plan approved by the state board of education last month, all kindergartners in the pilot program will be required to study a foreign language. The program will expand by one class level each year, through grade 4. The state hopes to take the program statewide in 1996.

"It is possible that any school wanting the program would be able to have it, when state funding provides it," said Greg Duncan, state coordinator of foreign-language and international education.

North Carolina is the only state with a requirement that all kindergarten students learn a foreign language, according to Mr. Duncan. Some Florida districts voluntarily include the subject, and Maryland is piloting some programs. Oklahoma this year mandated that all elementary and middle-school students be taught a foreign language by 1993.

The program will cost $361,000 this year, Mr. Duncan said.

Major changes are needed in Kentucky's school-construction oversight system, which is rife with lax procurement and planning practices, according to a report issued this month by the state auditor.

After studying three Eastern Kentucky building projects, State Auditor Bob Babbage reported several local problems and recommended such statewide changes as hiring a licensed architect with engineering experience to advise the state education department; requiring an independent estimate of a school site's development costs; and mandating district project-cost estimates before allotting state funds.

Mr. Babbage's report outlined abuses stemming from the free rein given to many district construction managers, who control bidding. The report also criticized procedures used by some local school boards for choosing potential building sites, noting that two of the projects studied were located on hillsides. One of those was also in a flood plain.

Among the report's recommendations for local districts: increased advertising for construction projects, greater scrutiny of single bids, and use of standard statewide contracts and fee schedules to lower contractor costs. The Governor's office, the General Assembly, and the education department are reviewing the report.

Beginning as early as this week, underage drinking at high-school prom parties in Connecticut will be the target of a first-ever crackdown by state liquor-control officials.

Undercover liquor-control agents, tipped off by schools, parents, or community groups, will infiltrate prom parties held at commercial establishments--such restaurants, hotels, or clubs--that hold a liquor license, said Edward Jadovich, director of the state's department of liquor control.

The establishments' owners may then be called to an administrative hearing where they could be fined or have their license suspended or revoked.

Officials will not be able to enter parties held in a private residence, but may enter a private party held in a licensed hotel or club, Mr. Jadovich said.

The crackdown comes in response to fights, serious motor-vehicle accidents, and even deaths associated with underage drinking at prom time, Mr. Jadovich said.

"This year, we decided [to try to] get in the game before the after-the-fact situation," he said. "The primary [goal] is to deter injury to the minors."

As of last week, liquor-control officials said they knew of a half-dozen parties that they planned to infiltrate, and they are seeking the cooperation of anyone knowing of such a party, Mr. Jadovich said.

Vol. 10, Issue 34

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