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President Clinton last week signed into law a $9.8 billion emergency-spending bill that would provide $1.1 billion for education-related earthquake relief services.

The bill, HR 3759, provides an estimated $845 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to begin school repairs on some 500 Southern California classrooms that the agency has deemed "unusable.''

Money will flow to school districts from FEMA through the state.

In addition, the measure would provide an additional $165 million in impact aid for districts where a federal presence decreases tax revenue and $80 million in extra Pell Grants.

The impact aid will be used by districts for such emergency services as busing. The Pell Grants will go to workers who were displaced by the temblor and are seeking postsecondary schooling or to college students whose family income changed as a result of the quake.

The measure partially offsets the spending with $3.3 billion in rescissions recommended by the President, including $8.5 million to come from the salaries-and-expenses account of the Education Department.

The Senate had approved the measure by a voice vote, and the House passed it by a vote of 245 to 65.

The House rejected attempts by Republicans and some Democrats to further offset the spending contained in the relief bill with additional cuts.

Charging that a growing number of school districts are violating a federal law aimed at guaranteeing students' rights to form school religion clubs, the American Center for Law and Justice last week asked Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley to take action.

The center for law and justice, a public-interest organization founded by the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, also filed two lawsuits last week on behalf of students.

The suits were filed in federal district courts against the Isle of Wight County, Va., school district and the Roslyn Heights, N.Y., district.

The Virginia Beach, Va.-based organization said it has received complaints involving 82 school districts where students were allegedly denied permission to form religion clubs.

The federal Equal Access Act requires districts that receive federal funds to allow student religious clubs to operate on the same basis as other extracurricular school clubs.

In a letter to Ms. Reno and Mr. Riley, Jay A. Sekulow, the chief counsel of the center for law and justice, called for the Education Department to require school districts to prove that they are complying with the Equal Access Act.

The letter also requests that the Justice Department's civil-rights division investigate the complaints.

Vol. 13, Issue 22

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