- - Thursday, November 3, 2011

IDAHO

Board OKs state online class requirement

BOISE | Idaho is set to become the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate.

The state Board of Education gave the online education requirement final approval Thursday, despite heavy criticism of the plan at public hearings this summer.

The measure is part of a sweeping education overhaul that introduces teacher merit pay and phases in laptops for every high school teacher and student.

Proponents say the virtual classes will help the state save money and better prepare students for college. But opponents claim they’ll replace teachers with computers and shift state taxpayer money to the out-of-state companies that will be tapped to provide the online curriculum and laptops.

The rule applies to students entering the ninth grade in fall 2012. It goes before Idaho lawmakers for review in the 2012 session, which starts in January.

ILLINOIS

Convictions vacated against 3 in 1991 slaying

CHICAGO | Cook County prosecutors on Thursday vacated the convictions of three of five men serving prison time for the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old suburban Chicago girl after DNA evidence linked another man to the crime.

The men were convicted as teenagers in the rape and murder of Cateresa Matthews of Dixmoor. She disappeared after leaving her grandmother’s house in November 1991 and her body was found weeks later near a highway with a gunshot wound to the mouth.

The murder went unsolved for about a year. Then in 1992, five teens were arrested. Two signed confessions and agreed to testify against the others for shorter prison sentences, even though attorneys said there were inconsistencies in their testimony and DNA evidence taken from the girl did not match any of the five teens.

Prosecutors reopened the case this year after new DNA testing uploaded to a state database linked a convicted rapist to the crime. He has not been charged in Matthew’s killing, but remains under investigation and is serving prison time in Cook County for a drug offense, authorities said.

PENNSYLVANIA

State orders fee increases, layoffs

HARRISBURG | Laying off several city employees and increasing parking fines and business license fees in the state’s financially troubled capital are part of the state’s emergency takeover plans, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration said Thursday.

With its new, unprecedented powers to manage Harrisburg’s finances, the Corbett administration revived the fee and fine increases and layoffs that were recommended previously by a state task force but rejected by the City Council.

A divided City Council last month filed for federal bankruptcy protection in an effort to get creditors, including Dauphin County, and bond insurer Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp. to absorb a portion of the approximately $300 million in debt tied to its trash incinerator.

But the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Republican governor enacted a takeover law last month in a bid to force Harrisburg alone to pay down the debt. The city of 47,000 residents is located about 100 miles west of Philadelphia.

Separately, Mayor Linda Thompson and Mr. Corbett also oppose the City Council’s bankruptcy petition, which is awaiting a Nov. 23 court date for oral arguments on legal questions surrounding the filing.

WASHINGTON

City’s superhero loses job after arrest

SEATTLE | The city’s masked crime-fighter Phoenix Jones has lost his day job.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services says the superhero, whose real name is Ben Fodor, had been contracted to provide home-care services to the department’s clients. But Mr. Fodor was arrested for investigation of assault Oct. 9; he claims he pepper-sprayed a group of people as he broke up a fight.

The department says it declined to extend his contract when it expired last month because an assault conviction would bar him from working with vulnerable people. The 23-year-old hasn’t been charged.

If he is not convicted he can ask that his contract status be reinstated, and in the meantime he can appeal the decision not to extend his contract.

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