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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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N.C. Board Votes To Restore Power to State Superintendent

Mike Wards election as North Carolinas new state schools superintendent has ushered in a new spirit of cooperation between his office and the state school board. The feelings are so warm, in fact, that the board voted last week to restore the management authority it had stripped from the job more than a year ago. Mr. Ward, a Democrat, will now report directly to the board.

"The challenges facing education today are too great for there to be any divisiveness in leadership," Jay Robinson, the board's chairman, said in a statement. "We have to have everyone pulling together for our schools."

Mr. Ward, who has spent 18 years as a teacher and administrator in the state's school system, was elected to succeed Bob Etheridge, who lost a high-profile turf war with Mr. Robinson. Mr. Etheridge was elected to Congress in November.

In 1995, state lawmakers turned over much of the responsibility for governing the system to the board. The board, in turn, hired Deputy Superintendent Richard Thompson to become the actual chief state school officer. The move left Mr. Etheridge with little more than a bully pulpit.

Mr. Thompson will continue to oversee much of the day-to-day operation of the department, but he will report to Mr. Ward, officials said.

Calif. Judge Halts Amendment

The California constitutional amendment barring racial and gender preferences in government hiring, contracting, and public education is on hold following a federal injunction granted last month.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco ruled Dec. 23 that Proposition 209 could exclude minorities and women from full participation in political life in violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

"When the Constitution prevails, it's a great day for all Americans," said Ramona Ripston, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, said the injunction will not stand. "It's based on the Orwellian argument that a constitutional ban on discrimination against all races discriminates against minorities and women," he said.

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