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School districts in Pennsylvania will receive $110 million in long-delayed special-education payments over the next two weeks under a court settlement approved last month.

The May 19 settlement between the state and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association marks the end to nearly a year of delays in payments of special-education funds to the state's school districts and its intermediate units, which provide regional special-education services. It insures that school districts will get at least 75 percent of the funds owed them for the current fiscal year.

The payments were delayed late last year after state lawmakers failed to agree to a change in the state's funding formula for special education. Even after lawmakers agreed on a solution, however, funding was held up again in a controversy over the state's hotly debated outcomes-based education program.

The settlement marks the second time this year the school-boards association has gone to court in an effort to force the state to continue making the payments.

Meanwhile, however, a special-education-funding measure finally passed the legislature on May 28. It clears the way for the state to pay school districts the remaining $140 million due them for special-education programs later this month, according to Gary Tuma, a spokesman for the state education department.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld a Mississippi law requiring minors to obtain written consent from both parents before an abortion can be performed.

The law, which passed in 1986 but has not been enforced, will alter practices at the state's three abortion clinics, which have been required to "strongly encourage'' minors to inform an adult of their decision to terminate a pregnancy.

Under the law, a minor can avoid the parental-consent mandate only by seeking the approval of a chancery-court judge. The judge may waive the requirement only if the minor is found to be "mature,'' or if she proves that notification of her parents "would not be in her best interest,'' as in cases of sexual or physical abuse.

If a minor's parents are divorced, separated, or "unavailable,'' one parent's approval is sufficient.

With last month's decision in Helen B. Barnes, M.D. v. The State of Mississippi, Mississippi joins Massachusetts and North Dakota in requiring both parents' consent for a minor's abortion.

Catherine Albisa, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy who represents the plaintiffs in the case, said she plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Virginia state board of education has approved a new set of skills and competencies high school students must master to graduate from high school.

The board late last month endorsed the list of skills, which include problem-solving, communicating, and quantifying and collaborating. Students will also be required to demonstrate knowledge in such areas as citizenship, culture, and the arts.
The new standards will not affect elementary school students until 1996 and middle and high school students until 1998, officials said.

The state education department will develop a set of performance standards to measure how well students attain the skills.

Vol. 12, Issue 37

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