02/1999 State Education Roundup

Published February 1, 1999

Georgia * Idaho * Illinois * Maryland
New York * Ohio * Pennsylvania


Mom, Put My Teacher in Jail

In Savannah, Georgia, teachers are facing their worst nightmare: kids with “attitude” can have them arrested. Many teachers were arrested last year after elementary students and parents discovered that citizen arrest warrants could be sworn out against teachers with scant proof of wrongdoing. In more than a dozen cases, teachers who allegedly had grabbed misbehaving students or physically pushed them back into their seats found themselves under arrest on simple-battery charges–sometimes based on the testimony of 8-year-olds.

“It came mostly from the kids,” Chatham Education Association executive director Joseph Bell told Governing magazine correspondent Christopher Swope. “The kids aren’t dumb,” he explained. “They’d see it on the TV news, that other kids had gotten teachers arrested. Then they’d tell their own teachers, ‘I’ll have my mom put you in jail.'”

Although the local school board has changed the reporting rules for teacher incidents so that minor cases are subject to internal, rather than criminal, investigation, teachers are still upset–not only with their students, who initiate the process, but also with the parents who swear out the arrest warrants.
December 1998


New Group Pushes for Tax Credits

A newly organized group of citizens–Idahoans for Tax Reform–has designed a School Choice Tax Credit program that will be introduced in the legislature’s upcoming session by Rep. Lenore Barrett. Under the plan, individuals or corporations would be allowed dollar-for-dollar income tax credits for money donated toward a child’s education in a private or home school. The proposal has been endorsed by Idaho’s newly elected governor, Dirk Kempthorne.

Designed to relieve financial and enrollment pressures in the Idaho public school system, the credit would be phased in over a six-year period. For eligible students, credits on individual tax returns would be limited to $250 in the years 2000 and 2001, $500 in 2002 and 2003, $750 in 2004, and $1,000 thereafter. For corporate tax returns, credits would be limited to $1,000 in 2000 and 2001, $2,500 in 2002 and 2003, $5,000 in 2004, and $10,000 thereafter. The proposal also contains a provision to protect private and home schools from state intrusion in such areas as curriculum and standards.

Further information is available from Laird Maxwell, Chairman of Idahoans for Tax Reform, 1608 Bedford Drive, Boise, ID 83705, 208/331-1996, fax 208/384-1998, e-mail [email protected].
School Choice YES! News Release
October 21, 1998
Idahoans for Tax Reform
December 2, 1998


Suburbanites: Make Better Use of Education Dollars

Governor-elect George Ryan has proposed to spend 51 cents of every new state tax dollar on education, but a panel of suburban residents told the Daily Herald that no one wanted to pay more money for education. Instead, they wanted the government to make better use of existing tax dollars. “We want the resources to flow in as direct a path as possible to the children, not the immense number of bureaucrats that are siphoning the money,” commented computer consultant Ray Damijonaitis.

While panelists recognized the problems faced by teachers, such as school violence and being made responsible for special-needs students through “mainstreaming,” they also agreed that tenure allowed bad teachers to stay in the classroom with little recourse for parents or administrators.

“Why can’t we eliminate tenure?” asked Damijonaitis. “Why should a teacher have tenure? Doctors don’t have tenure. Lawyers don’t have tenure.”

Panelists suggested several solutions to problems in the public schools, including:

  • Measure what students learn during the year by giving standardized tests in the first and last weeks of the school year.
  • Allow school choice and vouchers.
  • Give incentives for home schooling.
  • Eliminate or change rules for teacher tenure.
  • Require ongoing teacher training and recertification.
  • Toughen penalties for “trouble-makers.”

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
October 15, 1998


Desperately Seeking Teachers

Finding the Prince George’s County school system short of good teachers to fill its 8,000-plus teaching positions, recruiters went looking in eastern seaboard cities in a 32-foot-long recreational vehicle. As an incentiveto move to the Maryland county, educators are being offered free bank checking, low-rate auto loans, and reduced rents. The inducement in Howard and Frederick counties is reimbursement of college tuition.

Schools in other states have the same problem–in New York and Massachusetts, some offer a signing bonus worth thousands of dollars. New York City has even recruited math and science teachers from Austria and Spanish teachers from Spain.

The teacher shortage arises partly from increasing enrollment but also from a healthy economy, which has persuaded those with teaching degrees–particularly those in math and science–to pursue careers in other, better-paying fields. The shortage is so acute that some school systems are lowering the qualification standards they normally apply in hiring teachers, while others are waiving the requirement for teaching credentials for applicants who are in the process of getting them.

“There’s a lack of quality teachers willing to teach,” Washington Education Association spokesperson Rich Wood told Governing magazine correspondent Ellen Perlman. Arguing in favor of better salaries rather than one-time bonuses, he said “If you want quality, you have to pay.”
December 1998


Use of “Nappy Hair” Book Upsets Blacks

A white third-grade teacher trying to promote multiculturalism among her students has transferred to another public school in New York City after being threatened by black parents for using an acclaimed black-authored book the parents consider racially insensitive. At a meeting at her old school, the teacher, Ruth Sherman, was greeted by a group of about 50 residents, screaming racial epithets and profanities and accusing her of being racially insensitive. “We’re going to get you,” they threatened.

The book, which received positive reviews and was recommended for classroom use by instructors at Teachers College at Columbia University, is by black writer and scholar Carolivia Herron, an associate English professor at the University of California at Chico. Herron said there is nothing racist in the book and that her goal was to raise the self-esteem of black children by praising the attributes of black hair. Thus, the book–titled Nappy Hair–is filled with illustrations of the distinctive curly hair of blacks and colloquialisms for it, like “nappy.”

Ironically, Sherman chose the book for team-reading to teach her students, who are mainly black and Hispanic, as a lesson in how to get along with each other despite racial differences. But when some parents saw photocopies of some pages from the book, they viewed them as degrading and insulting to African-Americans and showed up at a public meeting to denounce the teacher.

“The poor children must be so confused right now,” said Sherman.
New York Times
November 25, 1998
November 27, 1998


Brennan Honored By Alma Mater

The Case Western Reserve Law School awarded its highest honor, the Centennial Medal Award, to school choice advocate David L. Brennan for outstanding achievement in education, commitment to the community, and excellence in professional activities and the practice of law. Brennan, a 1957 graduate of the school, founded the HOPE Academies in 1996, opening voucher schools in Cleveland and later charter schools in Cleveland and Akron. He also is chairman of Akron’s Brennan Industrial Group, Inc. and the Brenlin Group.

The recipient of numerous community awards, Brennan chaired Governor George Voinovich’s 1992 Commission on Educational Choice, which issued a report supporting school vouchers. Brennan received the Governor’s Award for his support of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program and for his work in education, which also included establishing Learning Centers at his manufacturing sites for the benefit of employees and their families.

“Mr. Brennan has been a credit to his law school and to his community,” said James Ryhal, president of the CWRU School of Law Alumni Association, detailing Brennan’s distinguished career. “Now it is time to honor him,” he declared.

At the November 20 ceremony last year, Brennan also was honored for exceptional achievement and commitment to the training of individuals entering the field of law. Brennan established law chairs at both CWRU and the University of Akron. He serves as a trustee at CWRU, The Ohio State University, and the Akron Bar Scholarship Foundation Board. Ohio Roundtable Freedom Forum December 2, 1998


Purpose of Teacher Unions Questioned

After citing teacher unions as the major barrier to school vouchers, journalist Joe Klein raised the following question during a panel discussion on vouchers in Philadelphia on December 2 last year: What exactly is the purpose of teacher unions?

While Klein noted that industrial unions have an important role to play in helping workers secure decent wages from bosses focused only on profit maximization, the teacher unions’ fight against vouchers is driven by fear of losing their power.

“Who’s the boss we organize against when we organize public employees? It’s us,” explained Klein, author of Primary Colors. When the teacher unions organize, he added, “they’re organizing against us.”

Klein was one of five panelists participating in a discussion on “Do Faith and Vouchers Mix?” held December 2 at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia. Although voucher proposals have so far been rejected by the legislature in Pennsylvania, all panelists agreed that parents should receive publicly funded vouchers and that those vouchers should be redeemable at religious schools.

Vouchers, in the form of federal Pell grants, already pay for tuition at private and religious colleges, noted panelist William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education. Pell grants provide a needy college student–one the government determines cannot contribute more than $2,800 a year for tuition–with up to $3,000 a year, depending upon the family’s income, size, and assets.

Similar publicly funded vouchers should be provided for K-12 education to allow students to attend the elementary and secondary schools of their choice, argued Bennett. “It’s because of political power” that K-12 vouchers aren’t available and Pell grants are, he said. Philadelphia Inquirer December 3, 1998