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News Briefs

Charter Schools Fall Short In Public Schools Matchup

A new study commissioned by the Department of Education, which compares the achievement of students in charter schools with those attending traditional public schools in five states, has concluded that the charter schools were less likely to meet state performance standards.

In Colorado, for instance, the study found that 98 percent of public schools met state performance requirements, but that only 90 percent of the charter schools did. Even when adjusted for race and poverty, the study said, the charter schools fell short more frequently by a statistically significant amount. The study added new data to a highly politicized debate between charter school supporters, including senior officials in the Bush administration, and skeptics who question the performance of the publicly financed but privately managed schools.

Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickok minimized the report’s significance even as he released the results. But academics who have been critical of charter school performance called it an important contribution.

Study Finds Savings In Medicare Drug Benefit

A new study confirms that the drug benefit being added to Medicare will provide significant help to elderly people with low incomes or very high drug costs. But, it says, one in four people who sign up for the benefit will have to spend more of their own money for prescription drugs.

In other words, the study says, one-fourth of the people who enroll in the new program will have higher out-of-pocket costs than if the law had never been enacted.

The study, issued Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, says that on average people who sign up for the benefit will see their out-of-pocket drug spending decline by $465, or 37 percent, from what it would otherwise have been in 2006, to $792 from $1,257.

James W. Mays, vice president of the Actuarial Research Corp. of Annandale, Va., which did the calculations for Kaiser, estimated that 29 million of the 41 million Medicare beneficiaries would sign up for drug coverage when it becomes available in 2006.

Powell Sees Israel Committed To Aiding Palestinian Vote


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Monday that he had won a commitment from Israel to let Palestinians living in Jerusalem take part in elections in January and to ease conditions in the West Bank and Gaza so that they can more easily vote there as well.

In what is likely to be his final foray to the Middle East before leaving office, Powell also conferred with Palestinian leaders, praising them for their efforts to reform their government, work with the Israelis to plan for the elections and begin a process to draw militant groups into electoral politics.

“I’m pleased with the level of coordination and cooperation that exists between the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority to make sure that those elections can be held,” he said outside an election office in Jericho, where he heard a progress report on Palestinian efforts to get 1.7 million voters to the polls.