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The Rhode Island Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a lower court's order that would have forced the Warwick School Committee to accept a contract requiring them to award retroactive pay raises to teachers and meet limits on class size.

School officials maintained that they would not be able to renew the three-year contract--which expired in 1991 but was reinstated by a superior-court judge during a dispute last fall--without raising an additional $2 million in revenue.

"It was extremely costly for us to implement the terms of the old contract,'' said Jane Austin, the new chairwoman of the school committee. "The [pay] increases would have raised [the budget] about $700,000 and the class-size provision would have forced us to hire new teachers.''

The high court relieved Warwick officials of enforcing those parts of the agreement until it decides whether it will hear the case.

Although many of the city's 1,000 teachers have walked off the job twice since the dispute began, they later agreed to work without a contract until a new school committee was seated last month. (See Education Week, Nov. 25, 1992.)

The teachers' union, which has 20 days to respond to the court's temporary order, is expected to continue negotiating with the school committee this month.

Union officials could not be reached for comment last week.

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding private school vouchers for a group of low-income students in Los Angeles-area public schools have filed amended court papers in response to an appellate-court ruling that their suit lacked specifics.

The Washington-based Institute for Justice is backing the suit by 34 children and their parents from south-central Los Angeles. They are seeking state vouchers to escape what they describe as failed public schools.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in September denied a motion by the state seeking to have the suit dismissed. (See Education Week, Oct. 7, 1992.)

However, a state appeals court ruled in December that the suit failed to list the districts the children attend as defendants and failed to specify how the schools were providing inadequate educational opportunities.

The plaintiffs on Feb. 2 filed an amended complaint listing the Los Angeles, Inglewood, and Compton school districts as defendants along with the state. The complaint also provides more details and statistics related to the districts' alleged educational shortcomings.

The Institute for Justice has filed a similar suit seeking vouchers for a group of Chicago children. A Illinois state judge heard oral arguments this month on a motion to dismiss that suit.

A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that the city's 40,000 students with disabilities are indeed a class and thus may sue the school district as a group.

The federal class action, brought by a group of parents in May 1992, charges the city's school board and the state board of education with unnecessarily and illegally segregating students with disabilities. (See Education Week, June 3, 1992.)

Students with disabilities in the district are too often placed in separate classes or resource rooms or bused to special schools far from home, the plaintiffs contend.

Lawyers from the Northwestern University Legal Clinic and Designs for Change, a local school-reform advocacy group, are representing the parents.

The suit asks for the city and state to develop a plan to integrate disabled students into their home schools whenever possible.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber this month also dismissed a bid by lawyers for the city and state to dismiss the suit.

Vol. 12, Issue 22

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