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Massachusetts' highest court is weighing whether the state owes school districts millions of dollars because of unfunded mandates it has placed on them since 1981.

The Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments this month on a lawsuit filed by the Worcester city government and school committee.

The suit grows out of a lesser-known provision of Proposition 2-1/2, the controversial property-tax measure that limits the amount of revenue municipalities can raise.

The provision bars the state from imposing laws or regulations on local governments and districts unless it provides the funding to implement them, according to Michelle A. Allaire, the lawyer for Worcester.

But the state continued to passmandates in such areas as special education and, as a result, owes Worcester nearly $1 million, she said.

Worcester officials also maintain that the state is in violation of a law requiring it to reimburse districts for the schooling of foster children.

A Tennessee judge has refused to order the state to immediately remedy inequities in public school funding.

Chancellor C. Allen High this month ruled that the state was doing enough in implementing a plan to equalize school funding over five years.

Lawyers for the state successfully argued that a new school-funding program passed by the legislature in 1992 addresses inequities in an old school-finance system that the court struck down last spring.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, a coalition of 77 small, rural school districts, had sought to compel the state to immediately provide an additional $664 million to equalize school funding.

The Utah legislature last week approved Gov. Michael O. Leavitt's package of gang-control legislation, which will outlaw juvenile possession of handguns, expand the number of work camps for adolescent offenders, and provide grants to communities to combat gang activities.

Under the plan, parents who refused to attend juvenile-court proceedings would be fined, and courts would be required to report juvenile convictions and detention sentences to the offender's school.

The legislature passed the measure in a special session last week.

The Massachusetts House has passed a bill to prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian students in public schools.

The bill would add language to an existing statute that protects students from racial, gender, ethnic, or religious discrimination. All aspects of student life, from admissions procedures to participation in athletics, would be covered.

Vol. 13, Issue 07

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