In a decision that may affect school voucher plans nationwide, the Supreme Court is to hear arguments today on whether a program in Cleveland is constitutional. It gives poor families up to $2,250 each toward tuition for children attending kindergarten through eighth grade. When the program was launched six years ago, only one-third of Cleveland's public school students graduated from high school. But opponents say that since the vouchers can be used at religious schools, the program violates the constitutional separation of church and state. (Story, page 1.)

Schools that allow students to grade each others' papers do not violate their privacy rights, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a unanimous decision. The case had pitted the Owasso Independent School District in Oklahoma against a woman who said her three children experienced embarrassment and humiliation when test results were announced in class. Her lawyers had argued that peer grading violated a 1974 law that protects education records.

Construction of new homes and apartments rose last month to the highest level in two years. According to the Commerce Department, housing starts hit 6.3 percent in January, after a decline in December, despite an otherwise sluggish economy.

With a routine that featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech set to music, French skaters Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat (above) won the gold medal in ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh took the silver and an Italian team the bronze. Last night's events were to include the women's short program, where US skater Michelle Kwan was to make another bid for a gold. (Related story, page 1; opinion, page 9.)

Under suspicion for steroid use, a speedskater from Belarus left the Winter Olympics. Officials said an initial drug test found levels of the substance nandro-lone at 380 times the legal limit. The unnamed athlete failed to show up for a second test Monday and checked out of the Olympic village.

After federal judges rejected his appeal, John Byrd Jr. was to dieby lethal injection late Tuesday in Ohio. Convicted in the 1983 killing of a convenience store clerk in a Cincinnati suburb, Byrd had requested the electric chair to make a statement about capital punishment, but the legislature banned its use.

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