02/1998 School Choice Roundup

Published February 1, 1998

California * Colorado * Florida
New Jersey * Ohio * Texas * Virginia


Fewer Eligible to Attend State University

Although more students are taking the classes needed to become eligible for admission to California’s state universities, fewer are actually qualified to be admitted.

The state’s admission goal is to have the top one-third of all California high school seniors enter the California State University system, but the proportion of seniors eligible to attend CSU dropped from 34.6 percent in 1990 to 29.6 percent in 1996. The admission goal for the University of California system is for the top one-eighth to enter, but the proportion of seniors eligible to attend UC dropped from 12.3 percent in 1990 to 11.1 percent in 1996.
Education Week
November 26, 1997


Officials Hail Low Scores

While only 57 percent of Colorado’s 52,000 4th-graders performed at “proficient” or above in new statewide reading tests, Governor Roy Romer and state education officials said they were pleased with the results because they show the state has raised its education standards and expectations. However, Independence Institute president Tom Tancredo questioned what he called the state’s “very nebulous” content standards, pointing out, for example, that the tests did not require students to know how to use quotation marks correctly.

In 1992 national tests conducted for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 28 percent of Colorado 4th-graders scored at “proficient” or above in reading, the same as the national average.
Education Week
November 26, 1997


Court Blocks Union Initiative

The Florida Supreme Court last November ruled against a petition drive for a constitutional amendment, supported by the Florida affiliate of the National Education Association, that would have guaranteed public education 40 percent of the state’s budget. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that the initiative, called “Reclaim Education’s Share,” violated a state law requiring petition drives to address only a single subject. Setting aside 40 percent of the state budget for education would impact many other critical state needs, said the court.

The Florida Teaching Profession-NEA had raised $600,000 from its members to finance the initiative campaign and had gathered more than 400,000 signatures to put the amendment on the November 1998 ballot. With the court’s ruling, the initiative cannot appear on the ballot.
Education Intelligence Agency
November 24, 1997


St. Valentine Booted

Children at public schools in Hillsborough, New Jersey, will no longer celebrate St. Valentine’s Day each February 14, following a ban on such references by the local school board, which renamed observance of the popular affair “special person day.” The board also banned all mention of Halloween, calling it instead, “fall festival celebration.”

While the secularly neutral “Happy Holidays!” has replaced the age-old greeting of “Merry Christmas” in most of the country’s public schools, in East Lansing, Michigan, the Easter Bunny is now called the Special Bunny.
Wall Street Journal
December 22, 1997

No Conflict Ruled in Voucher KO

Despite ruling in 1994 that it was a conflict of interest for a teachers union member or a member’s spouse to vote on teacher contracts, the New Jersey School Ethics Commission ruled in December that it was not a conflict of interest for a teacher union member and a member’s spouse to vote to kill the state’s first public school voucher program in Lincoln Park. The program, which provided tax dollars to pay for tuition at any public, private, or parochial school, was approved last February but in April was suspended by the state.

Voucher opponents won a majority on the school board in April and voted 5-4 to stop the program in May. Before a final vote could be taken, an ethics complaint was filed against two board members with links to the New Jersey Education Association. With the ethics ruling, the Lincoln Park school choice program will be removed from the district’s policy book.
Bergen Record
December 19, 1997


Principal’s Marijuana Use Ruled “Disability”

After high school principal Charles A. Winters Jr. pleaded no contest to a marijuana possession charge in 1991, the school board in Columbiana, Ohio, allowed him to keep his job while he underwent drug abuse rehabilitation treatment but did not renew his contract in 1993. A U.S. District Court jury recently ruled that Winters lost his job due to “drug disability discrimination,” and a hearing will be held next month to determine whether Winters will be reinstated with back pay and benefits.
Education Intelligence Agency
December 22, 1997


Students May Get Laptops for Textbooks

The Texas Board of Education, facing a $1.8 billion budget for textbooks for the next six years, is considering replacing them with almost four million laptop computers that would be leased at an estimated cost of $300 million a year. Board chairman Dr. Jack Christie says the board has to replace textbooks each year but does not have enough money to replace all aging texts.

“A year ago, we replaced social studies books that still had Ronald Reagan as president, the Berlin Wall standing and the Soviet Union as one country,” he told the New York Times. “With laptops, you can upgrade that for $1.25.”
New York Times
November 19, 1997


Students Get High-Tech Calculators

Last December, some 200,000 graphing calculators were shipped to Virginia’s 135 public school districts for distribution to every 9th- and 10th-grader and to 40 percent of the 8th-graders. The $17 million purchase is to provide students with the tools required to meet the state’s new academic standards, which require students to use the graphing calculators in Algebra II, geometry, higher-level math courses, earth science, and biology.

Although Connecticut purchased about 35,000 basic calculators in 1986 for its public school 8th-graders, Virginia is the first state to make an acquisition of this magnitude.
Education Week
December 3, 1997